Friday, November 25, 2011

The end is nigh

Today was a big day in lots of different ways. We are busy preparing for the new team coming - all 28 of them! The rooms are the back are nearly ready, the house is just about set (still trying to fix things that were not completely right or finished) and menu is being planned. So, in between events there were things to do. However the focus of this has to be on the two events.
First there was the Thanksgiving Service/Party at Hope Community. I had been told not to arrive until 11.00 and a bit before that time I received a call to suggest that 1.00 would be a better time to arrive. Thank you headmaster - it was time well used. Then, we arrived - the guest of honour and 'the Mr' (as compared to Pastor Ron and 'the wife') were duly announced.
It is an amazing experience to be the guest of honour, one that I definitely choose to shy away from. However, it was a wonderful time. It truly was a thanksgiving time as the event was also about the Scripture Union club at the school. I really do love these people so much. I feel so much at home.

The students performed a number of wonderful dances that had obviously taken time to prepare and were done extremely well. An event like this has a totally different nature to anything that I have experienced in Australia. There is a certain relaxed feel with a strong element of formality included. There is a definite agenda. However, performances are somehow not formal. That is not to say, they are slack, because they definitely are not. I think it is much more about the relaxed nature of the performers. They are not performing as if their lives depended on it but are performing well. There is no falseness in it, what you see is what you get. It is not about meeting a particular standard, but about dancing well. I hope I have captured the essence of it in these statements. A Senior One student spoke. She used no notes and spoke really well, it actually brought tears to my eyes. There were so many that thanked me, thanked Ron and me, and more. I think the nicest thing was that there is an understanding by some that it is our faith that has brought us, it is the outworking of our faith that means we do things and that the honour is to God not to us. It is also hard to be in the position of receiving thanks for gifts that others have given. It was recognised that this was the case but definitely considered to be a result of us. The best thing I think is that the school is developing, it is meeting a need in the community and it is seeking to show students more about God and His ways. One of the things that was also significant was the real sense of what a friendship Ron and I have with Rachel and Robert. It is one that will continue here and in Australia. It is one of mutual respect. It is a friendship with so many different aspects and common bases. I think the best thing is that we share the same faith which has drawn us to a common cause of helping others. This event will always be held close in my heart and mind. I am thankful for being able to teach at the school and I will never be the same because of it. It was lovely to hear the different things about me that have made a difference in the school. Enough, the talks and entertainment were followed by lovely African meal. Rice, meat in soup and chicken, truly delicious. I am wondering if my tastebuds have changed - a calzone last night was too rich and I loved the African meal!
Back home, bit more work and preparing for the next event. This was Ron's idea and a good one. We have had some very faithful workers build this house and we wanted to have a celebration of their work and honour them. Ron thought a bbq was a good idea but unfortunately we have had real trouble in finding a gas cylinder we can buy. We can exchange but not buy - hard to exchange something you do not have in the first place! Strange phenomena but this is Africa after all. Anyway, the workers love pork so lined up Robert to get some pork for us, made sure we had a good supply of sodas and some sausages. Throw in some coleslaw, grilled tomatoes, cooked chips, fried onion and you have almost a bbq. With the new deck complete we were able to meet up there. In total there were 14 of us (though Rachel had to go with a sick child) and shared a lovely time. It was so nice to be able to be there, on top of one of the buildings and share a meal. These guys, and Lucy, have truly become our friends. We see them almost every day. I can be peeved that there are nearly always workers in the house but when they are working at the village I somehow seem to miss them. Not only did we have main course, we also shared a wonderful cake Lucy had made and some icecream. The power remained on most of the day so the ice cream stayed frozen. This was so nice - a rare treat for us and probably much rarer for the workers. I know one in particular does love ice cream. Again, the most significant thing was the talking. One spoke of how he will always remember. Another spoke of Hopebuilders and the opportunity. These guys truly are part of the Hopebuilders team - they are working to break the cycle of poverty in their families and also to build things for their country and people. Robert Kafeero did a great job of talking (as usual) but in doing so shared the gospel, using our lives as an example of it being worked out. Our prayer has always been that people would know Jesus through our lives and our love. I think these guys do know that the reason for us being who we are is Jesus. It is hard to describe how special it was, it was simple, there was not a lot of fuss but the guys really appreciated it and a number said how they would never forget it. It will be so hard to say goodbye to these people. We will be back and we will be faithful in praying for them but it will be so different not to be here. Communication from here back to Australia is not the same for them as it is for us. Fortunately, we know God is in control both sides of the water and that this year has been planned and guided by Him and so is the future.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Full weekend

Well it is Monday night and it has been a very full weekend. Sometimes I just reflect on days and think I must write about that. I am sure that I will forget what life is like here, though even as I write I know I miss different things that have made each day 'interesting'. This weekend was very busy with many a huge variety of happenings.
Saturday morning dawned, no chance for a nice sleep in, big miss here - do like a good sleep in, especially when that means not needing to be up and going by 7.30 am! Nice normal breakfast, don't think there were even any interuptions. Then, big clean up, get organised for the day. The house needed a bit of work and there were people coming to film in the afternoon. The workers arrived, gave them the mandatory cup of tea and 'escort' (something to go with the cup of tea that often constitutes their breakfast). Clean up, they head off, the painter arrives but he has just had chai so doesn't need anything of me. Ron heads into town to pick up some pipes. Floor swept, with the broken handled broom (thank you workers). Floor mopped, fortunately not in the local way, with a squeeze type mop (thank you Trudi - though it does have a new head). Clothes washed in the local way - yes I can manage that thank you to all my Ugandan friends who are constantly amazed that I can. Beans prepared for the workers' lunch. Finish off and change ready for the 10.00 preschool graduation.
Of course, we are punctual, it is a graduation after all. Well, it was great to be welcomed by our children. Some unfortunately not attired quite in the manner I would have liked but never mind, they were happy. We waited outside for quite a while, the music inside was just too loud! No, we are not that old, the room has bad acoustics and sound systems are not quite of the same standard that we are used to. Then, Robert arrived and we decided to check out the classrooms at the preschool. I had seen them but the other two hadn't. All in the way of planning for the future school (what school you say - save that for another blog post soon).
We were seated, still waiting but entertained by Jessica needing some assistance. First an insect bite on one shoulder that was growing but I managed to stop hurting. Then, she returned with another bite! Quick trip outside to remove any insect remaining and found a biting, flying ant type thing. Ouch!
The proceedings were great when they finally started. The children from all the classes performed and of course we (us as representing the Village of Hope) had students in each one. Even a little fashion parade with little ones in the local gomaz. Lovely singing and dancing and then the awarding of the certificate to the graduants! Yes, in gown, hat and all. Funny for us but a lovely formal ceremony for the children.
Ron got to give a little speech on behalf of the parents. At first it was announced as going to be on behalf of the teachers! He had thought of making a big announcement but without having met with the appropriate people and the headteacher of Joy Primary sitting there in the audience (as a parent), only alluded to it.Nice having someone important to be with as we got to eat first. Big bonus when there are so many people there. Though let me say, catering on a big scale here is done in an amazing way. The food is almost always very similar but they managed to make it nicely, keep it and serve it for hundreds without much fuss at all.
Oh, that's right I forgot, it started to rain during the ceremony. That meant that when the generator failed (because of course the power was out) that it was very hard to hear people and it was quite dark inside as well. Then, there was the issue of the hole in the ceiling and roof so a bit of a flood but not too bad fortunately, people moved easily out of the way.
The rain did stop but knowing that there was lots of mud to get through we piled the 9 preschoolers from the village into the car and took them home. We quickly dealt with a few things at the village but no time to really stop as we needed to get back to our house.
On arrival we were greeted by one of the workers who informed us we had visitors. They were the group coming for the filming of a video! Well, it was three of the group anyway. Still no power, plumber used up the solar trying to test the new rainwater pump from the tank (yes it is in and good). Tried to chat with Anita but my battery died too quickly. The visitors stayed and waited and then gave up on the others coming so left. Cup of tea, essential ingredient of the day.
Ron hopped back in the car and went off to pick up the last two children for House 5. Not a trip I envied him as it is bad enough normally but with the rain the road would also be slippery. He left me to finish preparing my sermon for Sunday. However, of course someone else came to visit to discuss things with us, well me since Ron wasn't home. Then, a bit of time preparing and Ron came and picked me up and back to the village I went. It was so good to see Wyclif and Peace. They both looked happy to come though when arriving at the village they did become a little overwelmed. A wet afternoon with lots of mud made for children who were very excited and these two had come from quite a deserted lonely place. I endeavoured to get them appropriate clothes from the container and make sure all was well. Ron then took the workers home while I was finishing off. Supervision of a couple of houses evening meal was needed. One child missing - not sure where, Robert sent off to investigate. We found out later that he was actually only in the farm!
So, why did we not investigate? We needed to get home because the new couple to look after Suubi House had arrived and Ron had just picked them up. There had been some phone calls in the afternoon I forgot to include! So home to help settle Juliet and Sam, Precious and Blessing into their accomodation. Oh supper! Poor Ron was sent out to find something at Begembe that would be suitable for them and I made a tuna casserole for Ron, Nicholaus and me.
After finally finishing everything the power finally returned and there was a chance to find out how life was in Australia. Final preparation of the sermon and off to bed. Another day gone.
Sunday morning, after a reasonably good sleep up we get. Oh dear, no internet - power but no internet! It was obviously a problem with the supplier but a bit frustrating. Hence there was plenty of time to be ready for church. We had invited the new couple to come as where we go was her church before they had returned to the village. Tiny problem with muzungu time versus African but safely on the way with the extra family. Had a lovely time at church though after speaking to Pastor Robert prior to the service and Ron mentioning about talking about this year at church I was a little overwhelmed by the thought of leaving. Imagine, twelve months ago I was feeling almost the same thoughts and feelings prior to coming! I truly have two homes.
Just prior to the time that we would need to leave to get to the other church in time we had a phone call telling us to take our time. There was no rush as the pastor would not be there for a little while. We delayed and arrived about 10.35 after picking up Nicholaus. The singing part of the service did start at about 10.55 and then the pastor came just after 11.00! Consequently the sermon did not start until after 12.15. It went well. Then, off with the pastor for a quick bite to eat. Fun times, we went to a 'pork joint'. There on the verandah out the front were about half a dozen guys with stubbies on the table, and we went there with a pastor! This is significant simply because alcohol is so abused here that Christians do not drink at all. Well, we tasted some lovely pork (it was a little overcooked for which both the pastor and the chef were very apologetic) but served on a huge metal skewer. It was fun.
Into town to buy some much needed things and to pick up a water container to hold water for the aging, sick father of the two children brought to the village on Saturday. Home quickly to check on things there, out to Kakira to pick up documents and to deliver the container. Briefly home and then on to the village for supper.
This is always a highlight of our week. We get to eat a meal with the children of two households and their mothers. This week was no exception with a lovely meal and good company. After supper comes devotions and this too is a real treat. Last Sunday was no exception. Testimonies were given. "Thank you God for this place and that we are not chased from school like so many. Thank you that we are able to live here." or "Thank you that we are all well for our exams". Or, just looking and seeing these new children so happy and accepted. One child reads a story from the bible and another translates. This too is just such a lovely thing to hear them able to translate with confidence after learning English for such a short time. So many things to be thankful for here in the village.
After devotions we went up to the admin centre and spent some good time with Robert and Millie. So much to share and so little time. Then, finally home to find that the internet was working and so obviously we needed to check how things were back in Australia. At last into bed, another weekend filled to overflowing with so many experiences.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ignorance was bliss!

Yesterday, we went for a trip up to the other orphanage we visit and help. We took with us a girl who is going to be able to pass on donations and make sure that things are travelling well there. It was a stark reminder of the vulnerability of children. We had had a phone call on Friday or Saturday to say that food was running short but were unable to go up until yesterday (Monday). We did think that there were other sources of food but also made sure that despite other things happening that we did make it. We found the children not having eaten properly since Saturday lunchtime.
In Australia many people join in the 40 hour famine - going without food for 40 hours, though it has also developed into going without other things rather than food. These children did not have the luxury of a barley sugar (in fact they would rarely if ever get sweets anyway) and yet they had not eaten a meal for more than 48 hours.
There are so many different slants that I could take on this. Let me think through just a few. Well, really this orphanage is not our responsibility, we have done a lot for them and so whatever we continue to do is a bonus. I could happily argue this if we were not talking about vulnerable children, but unfortunately we are. We have not promised them anything but by the very fact that we know of their need means we need to do something. For those of you who think I might be beating myself about it, I am not but I am cross.
I am cross because I know that there should be food for them. I am cross because I do not like to see people, especially children, feeling like there is not hope for them. I am cross because there is corruption in this country. I am cross because part of me did not want to know the realities and now I do. I am cross because I cannot solve the problems of this country. I am cross because these children should be safe and properly cared for in an orphanage. I am cross because people have let them down, and we probably in their minds fall into that category.
There, I have vented some of my frustrations. I now know the realities of life here for so many. Children in an orphanage are reliant on people taking care of them and when there are no means then they miss out. Children in villages are reliant on neighbours and kindly people helping where they can. Children in our village are so fortunate, they have many people that see them as their responsibility and would make sure that they always had food, shelter and love.
So, what do we do? The first answer for me has to be to pray. To pray for wisdom each moment of every day. While we are here we can help those who are hungry - or give a small amount of money to buy water (Something that happened this very evening) when we are presented with the situation. However, the cry of my heart is for people to recognise the need for change.
Many people think that change can only happen through governments but it has to start with people being willing to put their faith into practise. Those who call themselves Christians must not be willing to cheat, to steal and to not look after each other. In saying that, I know the same thing happens in Australia but in different ways - faith is meant to be put into practise. I was shocked yesterday when a friend, who can be called a peasant as she has no source of income but grows her own food. She told me that because her maize had ripened early, people had stolen lots of it! This seems so low.
There are amazing differences in crime here. I have rarely seen someone who I thought would do me any harm. However, there is so many little things that people just expect to happen. Corruption is rampant from the lowest position to the highest. Just today Ron read at least two examples from the newspaper citing aid being removed due to funds not being spent on what they were intended for. So, each person has to stand up and not be involved in this corruption at any level. One day I handed out lined paper in class for an exercise to be handed in. I counted the pages and knew there was at least 80, one per student. However, as students handed them out we were short. Why, because students had taken more than more and hidden it! About 20 students must have done this, they then handed them back when they realised others did not have. This exemplifies to me that change has to happen with children, they need to know it is not all right despite what they see happening all around. The expression "This is Africa" or "This is Uganda" is not all right when it implies that this is the way it is and the way it will always be.

Enough ranting. The main purpose of this blog post was to identify the fact that before I came here and built up relationships with people I could give to help but I was really ignorant. I was ignorant of the real picture. A statistic and the sight of a person struggling is hard to see on the television. To know someone in that position is entirely different. It makes that small luxury so much harder to pass off. It means that I will not and don't want to forget these children both in the village and those outside. They are precious and need to see, feel and know God's love shown to them in the most practical of all ways. Then, they can see an example worth following, one of goodness not corruption.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Changing times

We now have only six(oops now only five) weeks left here in Uganda before returning to Australia. It is a time of change for us and trying to hand things over. We have really tried to do this all year but now the need is much more urgent. The hard question is: "What happens when we are not here?" For a lot of things that is easy, we have made sure or are making sure that people are in place to do jobs that we have done. For example, the new village managers are in place and doing a good job. While we are still here we are able to overseer their work but by the time we have left, they will have been through most of the stages of the village with new children and teams being the main ones. We leave the village in good hands with Robert Kafeero still overseering and Robert and Millie very capably taking the reins. There are other things though that we cannot hand over. Each week (often each day) people come to our door. They are needy people, in need of food or money for their rent.
A large part of our mantra this year has been "is it sustainable". Yet, here we are having done some things that are not sustainable. Are we unhappy about what we have done? No, of course not, you cannot be unhappy about meeting peoples' immediate needs for survival. However, it is frustrating, depressing and difficult to consider that these people we have got to know (lots of these not very well) are not going to have food. Fortunately, the season is good and so many people we know are generous with their harvest. Though the quandary still remains. I suspect that we will just continue to support people here who are supporting those in need. In that way we are empowering people to do good. Fortunately, we know of people who are able and trustworthy to do this. It is amazing to meet people who given money for someone else will put aside their personal needs (for basic necessities) to do what is meant with the money. These people challenge me. How often do I hear in Australia, "Oh, but it is important to look after your needs, if you don't what will happen to the ministry". Trust in God has to grow. This is true both sides of the ocean.
In Australia, people are reluctant to give because of their own needs and we do not trust God to meet our needs. In Uganda, people have a need and can justify taking something that is not theirs from someone who has much. This of course is not by any means always the case in either place but simply statements about the challenges that each one of us face no matter which country we are from.
Back to the topic, though the above discussion is not such a great diversion. We are going back to Australia. How have we changed? Is it going to be hard to go to the supermarket and be tempted to buy everything we have not had this year? Are we going to take on the norms that were ours before we came? Have we changed? Will we be able to slot back in? Then of course there are decisions that need to be made and work to be done back in Australia. So many things occupy my mind.
Just today, a week after starting this post, we have had the privilege of bringing some new children into the village. The village is again changing. Less children than anticipated due to unexpected circumstances but needy children none the less. In fact, one of the children when we have visited him in his previous home appeared to lack all the essentials of life, most particularly love. He is a lovely, finely built little boy who clung to us when we visited. He had poo down his legs until the aunt was told (by others) to bathe him. She had her own child, and to be fair life is very tough where she lives and so he was just a burden that she could not bear. Both of us have been moved greatly by his situation and pleased that we could be a part of bringing him into the village. So, today as he came - bringing absolutely nothing except the clothes he was wearing. Due to the weather conditions it was necessary to take the car to pick up children. Hence, after picking him up and the mother doing a great job of being there for him, she had to leave to pick up other children and he came with me to get new clothes. During the process, this silent little boy held my hand and walked with me. After a while he suddenly spoke, in his language but he spoke. Then, he spied the slide and went to investigate. His little legs struggled to climb the stairs but he managed to nearly reach the top and then he stopped. A little hesitant but as he started to climb he had for the very first time, that I had seen, a smile. A beautiful smile, this is home! A little help and then a bigger girl to stand at the bottom, he had his first slide. It is hard to describe the joy of being part of this. Suddenly this little boy has a future, a hope and a safe place to call home. Then, when Ron arrived back with other children this little boy ran to him and again smiled. Too special! So, what are we doing - we are leaving and yet building bonds. We have learnt about attachment and the difficulties for little children who have not bonded properly early on. Are we just adding another problem for these children when we go? Much as I would like it to be about me and what I like, it has to be about these children. Hopefully, we are doing this right. We did spend some time with them today but we also left them for most of the afternoon to settle with their new mother (who incidentally is doing a fantastic job). We are like the grandparents - they are not always around but they are part of your life. We are not leaving here and going back to Australia for ever. Hence, we will continue to be part of their lives. Interestingly, that is what Fiona(one of the first children) said to me today. "You are Jaja (grandparent). You are so happy, smiling with your arms folded looking at them." She was right - it was such a lovely thing to be able to see, the older children checking up on the little ones. The old and the new mixing. The new mother holding one child with another sitting at her feet. Truly a beautiful picture. We treasure these moments but know that we are leaving these children in safe hands.
Today, we also went with Rachel to visit some other needy children. It was a bit of a drive but through magnificent countryside. Along the way we saw some beautiful houses and also some terrible mud houses. Rachel told of the circumstances of some children that she had previously brought into a different orphanage from here. Then, we came to the destination - only a little off the beaten track - enough so for Ron to be reminded he was missing the 4 wheel drive weekend from church in Australia. A little group of houses around a flattened social area with an open-air shelter as well. There were lots and lots of children and we were directed to a small mud hut. Rachel and the others went in while Ron and I stayed outside. The place was very small, in fact all the houses in the group were, and in reasonable repair for mud huts but the horrible part is that in Australia children have better and bigger playhouses than these. There were two little girls being looked after by a very aging grandfather. He was not managing, he did not even have anything for them to eat tonight and the only way they continued was through the help of neighbours, who from our perspective were only just a little better off. Such a sad picture, two orphans, with a grandfather who obviously loves them very much but with only the use of one hand, blindness coming, so no means to provide for them. He wanted us to take them straight away and it was very tempting, instead we gave him some money to at least provide some immediate needs and the process will be continued.
We will leave but the momentum continues both sides of the ocean. Here, the work continues with children and mothers being found, houses being built, and people's lives being changed. In Australia, people are packing a container, teams are preparing to come, people are donating money and time to make things happen. These children have become our children (or grandchildren) and we are responsible. We will go back different people but perhaps most of all we will go back knowing more of the heart of God, to feed the hungry, to help those in need and to be less concerned for those things that have no lasting value.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mud and other stuff

It is always hard to know whether to write just for the sake of it but it is good to keep this blog going. At present we are in wet season - though it appears that it is not when it is meant to be. However, rain is rain and the quantity of it cannot be denied. Hence the mud. "Mud, mud glorious mud", I can hear my mother singing. Here, it is part of life but presents problems that are so so different to Australia.
First, rain means that everything stops. Nobody moves out of the house, it is a matter of staying home and waiting. Or staying wherever you are and stopping. Streets quickly become flooded, and if you get caught in the rain you will get very wet, very quickly. Then, it usually stops after a while and there is plenty of water and lots and lots of mud.
Thursday morning was such a time. It had stopped raining in time for me to go to school, so off I went - in Blundstones with my nice dress! The Blundstones did a great job - they collected great quantities of mud but by and large were easy to walk in and only a few muddy splashes up the back of my legs. At school, change into sandals to look nice for class. First mistake! By the time I got to class the soles were full of mud and it was quickly creeping onto my feet. A lovely young male student saw the state of affairs and came to my rescue and offered to clean the soles. He efficiently cleaned most of the mud off the shoes. Only problem is that with a mud floor, in wet weather it does not dry, and mud attracts mud so... On the bright side, I did not slip over at all! Class proceeds, no problem. Then, just before the end of class the rain starts. Remember, no ceiling just tin roof. Not so easy to teach 80 students, so just wrote some solutions on the board. However, the rain continued and looking out: it was very wet, a worksite with bricks to negotiate, rain pouring down, class just had to continue. The students were not going anywhere and so, no option the class just continued. This is Africa, time does not matter! I did eventually get out of class, but morning tea was delayed. Rain wets firewood, firewood heats water, water makes tea. So, logically morning tea could not be made at least until it stopped raining - amazing how much one takes for granted a nice electric kettle.
We have enjoyed having some friends here and on Saturday afternoon I took them to visit a group with the aim of buying some goods. After a trek up a hill through as much mud as you would ever want to walk through we discovered that the group did not meet due to the rain! Then, a trek back home - though we did have the joy of having many children join us for the walk and were able to buy some baskets from a couple of local friends. Well, I suppose you could put it down to a cultural experience.
The rain also makes the roads even more diabolical. We heard of a number of accidents that happened around us this week as well. One a minor one with someone knocked due to the pedestrian trying to avoid mud and puddles. Another with a guard from the village having his bike break into two! Not a common occurence, and he is recovering but had bad facial abrasions. Then, a very significant accident not that far from here where five people died in an car accident. The car they were in was trying to overtake two petrol tankers and then had to pull in between them as a car was coming the other way. However, it was at a point in the road where slowing down was necessary, the first one did, with the car coming in the second one did not slow down enough and kaboom, and the car was squashed. Horrific stuff! The people involved were two evangelists from America, a bishop and his friend from here in Uganda and the driver. A salutory reminder of the dangers here.
Throughout our time here it has been evident that education is of vital importance and so we have turned a lot of our attention to the high school and also looking at the education of the children at the village. With this in mind it is interesting and seemingly like a God given opportunity to be both going back to teaching positions. Ron's is a bit of a surprise but with the conditions being very suitable, we are thanking God for an opportunity for him to redevelop his skills in education and use his teaching gifts.
So, this blog has been a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I am sorry about that but hopefully keeps people a little up to date with our goings on. Perhaps a little deeper post next time, hopefully not deeper in mud.

Friday, October 21, 2011

All in a day's work

Recgonising that there might seem to be too many blog posts, yesterday (well by posting time a couple of days ago) really did deserve remembering.

The day started with a little knock on the window at 6.50 am with Robert needing some money for his building. OK, so we were awake but just not up! So, that was the start of the day. Breakfast continues to be an important part of our lives and so we had breakfast and before it was complete there were visitors at the gate. A young pregnant girl who had come seeking help last week when her place had been ransacked and she had lost everything. She went off with some good old posho, beans and onions. What more could she want? Ron left to get the work happening at the village on the floors of the rooms and then while preparing to head off to school another visitor. This time it was Elizabeth with good news. She has been haunted by family who want to get the land that is rightfully hers but entitlements are a bit different to Australia. So, witchcraft, threats etc were all being used. Instead of having to sell though the community has surrounded her and said we do not want her to leave and ‘chased’ the family away. Good news!

Off to school, on the way discover that a student from another school was unable to do their S4 exams as his money had been ‘eaten’ by the director of the school. I do not understand. Later I find that this happened to about 15 students and from what I gather they will have do the year again but won’t have to pay fees! Such consolation, what about if they were going to earn money next year etc, etc. Rights, what are they?

So now for school… Exams are in full swing, I am met by the S4 students at the gate who rated the exam the previous day fair – which basically means bad. So, I prayed with them for the day’s exams. Then, class cannot be in the usual classroom because that is the exam centre. The new classrooms however did manage to get a roof on during the weekend despite the setbacks due to rain. Well, it was quite funny. I thought of all the occupational health and safety people I know as I clambered over rocks, small building materials and then ‘climbed’ the large step into the classroom. Unfortunately, there has not been time to concrete the floor so it is sticky mud with a bit of grass growing. The board is plastered cement which does not quite work the same as a blackboard. Oh well, no problem on with the lesson. I again discovered the difficulty of teaching distance-time graphs to students who never travel in vehicles where they have access to speedometers. In fact, most of them only walk or catch the occasional boda. Basically, the difference between 5 km/h and 50 km/h is only theoretical. We did talk about local taxis and how they stop and start and what that looks like on a graph. “But, madam, what is the formula?”

On with the day, a huge pile of books to mark, too many to bring home so I stay at school to mark. Interestingly, I am only really at school while marking or teaching – such a different lifestyle, I prepare at home and go in to teach. During the marking process I need to go and check the students going into the examination. Lady teacher needed to check the girls. I soon found out why, I was told “Not just their pockets, check their breasts, they might have a paper stuck in there.” Not a great feeling doing something like that for the first time! Oh, the experiences I have here in Africa.

Home for a late lunch, Lucy’s frittata was a lot more appealing than posho and beans! However, I had told Lucy I would help her learn to make biscuits so I had to find a recipe to go with the new biscuit forcer that I happened upon on Saturday. Lunch hardly swallowed, trying to help Lucy and Robert dropped in with some things to discuss for the village. Well, Lucy made great biscuits and hopefully the discussion was fruitful. In the midst of this as well, we were having rissoles for dinner. I needed to show Lucy how to prepare these, though I would cook them later. I realised it would also be helpful to introduce her to a hamburger. She had no idea what I was talking about but we quickly managed to put one together for Ron and so now she knows yet another main food type!

Then, after finishing things off we went off to the village. Sandal type shoes purchased the previous day needed to be handed out. Oh, some happy children and then others wanting ones even if theirs were all right. Yes, a normal family just on a bigger scale. While at the village there were plenty of things to deal with as per usual. Workers had been putting the finishing touches to the floors in the new houses in preparation for the new children to come in. Hence, we needed to wait for them to be ready as here transport home from work is part of the expectation. They are fun blokes and so into the car we piled - four large men in the back (this is only a Rav4), one in the boot. We arrived home to be greeted by a guy who we have helped with some medical expenses but have told that the help given is enough. He had obviously been drinking so help was definitely out of the question. Ron 'dealt' with him while I ran inside to get something for one of the workmen. Ron left and then I saw a hand coming through the gate to open it! I yelled out something about having helped enough, and then heard a response, it was Nicholaus - oops. However, the man was still there and I did tell him to leave.

Dinner on and waiting for Ron, he was not long. Then, just about ready to serve and a phone call from Judith could they drop in and see us. Yes, of course. So, delay dinner thinking they would be here in a couple of minutes. They took a little longer and just as I decide that hunger is getting the better of me and put the dinner back on they arrive. Of course their visit was very pleasant. Then, finally a late dinner.

Probably heaps more stories I could add about the day but as you can tell. There is usually things to laugh about, things to cry about, things to pray lots about and always things to do.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Friends

Friendship is an interesting thing, especially when you consider how many Facebook 'friends' you have. In Uganda friendship can mean something entirely different. I have this year even been known (not in one of my more compassionate moments) to suggest to someone that I had enough 'friends' and that he did not need to become my friend. That is because often a friend here means someone who helps you and takes care of you especially in a financial or material manner. So, many would say that we have a massive number of friends here. In fact, we would probably beg to differ, we have people we have happily helped and some real friendships. The difficult part is that all the people we know have needs and so it is a hard decision how to best help those who have become true friends. You could well say, just give to them - which of course we do, but how, and how do you stop the relationship changing into a lopsided one? However, I mention all this so that you have some background into more of our situation.
Friendship is such an important thing, and we have been privileged to make some good friends here and to recognise how much we miss good friends in Australia. This last week one of those friends here Robert Kafeero turned 40 years of age. No, there was no big party despite the fact that when you turn 40 here you are considered to now be wise. However, we were able to celebrate with him and Rachel which was an immense privilege for us. They invited us to go out to dinner with them. In usual Ugandan style it was meant to be what would suit us, but we were able to convince them that it was about Robert not us. So, off we went. Unfortunately, the new restaurant that to all appearances looked open was only able to serve drinks. So, after a nice soda we moved on to another place. It was so nice to share a meal with friends. We feel so much on an equal level with this couple. Robert as director of the school has spent a bit of time discussing school matters with Anne. Ron and Robert work closely together on all the building projects, with Robert as the ultimate boss but Ron able to give his thoughts. On matters Ugandan, Robert is our authority. He will not give us an answer to please us, he will tell us what he really thinks. We love that! We are so fortunate, they understand us (not just the language) and hopefully they feel like we understand them. We do not get that much time to spend with Rachel but when we do we really appreciate her input and thoughts. Why can we have such a friendship? I think part of the reason is that they are not coming to us and begging. They are part of the team that we are part of. This is their country and they do not want others to do the work for them, they want to work with the people that come to help. Their attitudes are so often very refreshing. Something that made me so happy recently was when Robert made a special effort to drop in. He said how he had thought, "I haven't seen Anne for days, I will go and see them."
Robert and Rachel do appreciate that through friendship they gain. However, the gain is not a one way thing. Just this weekend, after a very long day Robert made sure that there was suitable food for us to have on our return. Amazing how much this makes one feel cared for. Then, just last night when returning from taking some of the children to a crusade, the bus broke down. Who did we ring? Robert of course. He came happily, despite having had a really busy day and only just returning home from picking up Rachel and the children from the same crusade. Friendships like this help to make life here very possible. Not only do we have God, we have some human bodies who we can turn to when in need.
There are other friends here. Judith and Fred are a couple from YWAM who we have got to know. Judith a bit more than Fred but we consider them both to be friends. This last week when Ron was not well and I was a little unwell, there were messages. They dropped around to see how we were. Judith and I pray together on a regular basis and she understands my concerns, it is not just about her. They also understand so much about the situation here and their insight is invaluable. They are about making a change. Interestingly, like Robert Kafeero, Fred has chosen to do things that are not for his personal financial gain. Fred is into community development and has taught a lot about this. He also is working on this in other ways. His assistance with the health work that we looked at was invaluable. He values important things and recognises the types of things that are detrimental to true development.
Other friendships happen, the guys who work on the buildings. It is hard not to consider them good friends, because they are. Not quite the same, but close. We care about their lives, they care about us. We have lots of laughs and plenty of banter shared. They would love us to help change their lives and in many ways through regular employment we (Hopebuilders) are. Of course there are other things too that are provided when needed. Only tonight Emma reminded Ron of his willingness to teach him to drive. So, the lessons will begin... These are people that add to our lives, we talk to them in a real way, we listen to their problems and share our joys with them.
As 'hosts' when people come we also make different forms of friendship with people that come. Some, will just be people we know for a few weeks, may see in Oz when we are there, and know we share the experience of being here in Uganda. Others, come who we have known and the friendship changes because they now share something that is significant to us. Still others, we will always remember. Will they be or become very good friends, only time can tell that. However, we do know that people that come do impact us. We listen, hear about peoples'reactions to situations and continuously assess how we are doing with it all. Being immersed in something you lose objectivity and so people help us see things in their own light. We hopefully gain wisdom, understanding from this both for ourselves and to enhance the experience of others coming. Always so much to learn, fortunately education is a life long experience!
Then, of course there are friends back in Australia. Some of them are going through different struggles. It is so hard not to be able to sit and have a coffee and chat. To not be there for people that you love is really difficult. We of course share the joys and sorrows but it is not quite the same as being there. Some friends have managed to keep the constant contact for which I will be forever grateful. Amazing how much an email or message means when you are far away. Though of course while feeling grateful I often recognise how slack I have been in doing this for others. In some ways, at the moment I am all the more aware of the friendships back there. With the exciting news of grandparenthood approaching, one wants to share it with those that know your children, let alone of course the children themselves.
Sharing a wonderful time in England with great friends Rick and Di

Ultimately, how fortunate Ron and I are, we have so many friendships both new and old.

The Things We Do For Love


It is custom here when you receive an invitation to an event that you also receive a copy of the budget for the event. This allows you to decide how you will contribute. Its a bit like a Wedding Registry I suppose, but it applies more generally.
And so it was the case, when George, the long serving guard at the village, issued me with an invitation to one of his (many) son’s graduation. I was given a copy of the budget as well, but George was helpful in that he asked if we could allow him to use the Village van to transport his family to the graduation. With a little advice from Robert Kafeero, I decided to offer George the van, which would be the gift from the village, and I would drive it and supply fuel, my gift. This was all gladly received. Anne and I thought that we could use the time that the family were tied up with the graduation and party to drive on further to Soroti, a place that we have been wanting to go to, and then come back and pick them all up.
So at 8 am, as arranged, we had the bus running ready to go and we met George. First stop was to collect the cakes and the lady who made them. Then back to the start and after a few minutes George was busy trying to get the people at Florence’s (one of his ex wives, not the mother of the graduate) house on to the van. Then we met Fred, the graduate, who was a little flustered. Our bus was nearly loaded, but apparently we had to collect some people from Kakira, just up the road. But Fred was waiting for the other van to come that he had arranged. A bit longer and some terse words between George and Fred and we were dispatched to Kakira, not to collect people but crates of sodas. More waiting there, but sill no sign of Fred and the other bus. Eventually we decided to return to Wairaka and wait for the van on the highway. I did some checking. Knowing that we had a trip of at least 2 hours in front of us, what time was this graduation supposed to start I asked. Midday was the reply, so I suggested to Fred that he leave someone else to worry about the other van, that he get in mine and we hotfoot it out of there. This plan was not well received and so we waited. At 10:30 the van eventually arrived. OK, let’s go I say. Wrong. Back up to Kakira Sugar Mill to collect some people. Why we had to go through several security gates to get these people rather than have them use some of the 2.5 hours they have been waiting to get down to the road is the difference between African and Lilydale logic! Never mind, its not our party I keep telling Anne. (Those who know her will appreciate how hard the lack of punctuality is for Anne) Finally we are underway at 11:10 am - only a little over 3 hours later than expected.
We had several stops along the way to pick up more passengers, some were ready, others not, and also one stop in a small town to buy drinking water. At this stop every window had at least three arms poking in trying to sell various kinds of meat on a stick or other goodies, and it can be very hard to drive off when there are still about 10 stray arms and 80 chicken sticks inside the van, but drive off I did. The road for the first part was familiar, and quite good, then when we branched off onto the Mbale road it became the most pleasant driving experience I have had in Uganda. Great road, less trucks, even a higher speed limit! But that couldn’t last. The final part of the journey was to be over dirt roads. There has been a lot of rain in recent times, and whilst the road was basically dry, the rain had taken its toll and there were many holes and puddles. No problem the van handled them with ease. Until, we came across a bigger hole than the rest. A culvert had collapsed leaving a road that was about ‘1 shoe’ narrower than the width of the bus. First attempt at getting around didn’t work as one wheel was airborne and the other just spun. “Go Back” was the call, but I was aware that “Go Back” could mean the last 40 minutes or so would have to be repeated and then added to on another route. So, with a little careful manipulation of the broken pieces of concrete and a couple of rocks, I filled enough of the hole to get about half way across. The rest would just have to be left to momentum. It worked a treat and I was left with that nice feeling of all the benefit of those 4x4 trips that we have done at church. Thanks Andy! Anne clapped, the others didn’t seem sufficiently impressed to me.
A small part of the waiting crowd
Then just around the corner Fred asks me to stop so that one of the girls can put her gown on before we drive in. Another slightly puzzling request, but its not my party. Finally, at 2:00 pm, with about 8 people in academic gowns and hats, we drive in to discover that this is not a graduation in our sense, but it is a party for Fred. The crowd have been waiting for 2 hours for the guest of honour to arrive. We are instantly the centre of attention. Those with gowns and frocks line up beside the van to make their formal entrance! Anne and I try to hide, plotting our escape. Very soon after the ‘official party’ have made their entrance, Emmanuel, another of George’s sons, who has the microphone beckons for “Mr Ronnie and Anne” to come and take their seats! We are seated on the family side in the second row, looking straight at the people in the cheap seats from the local community. Emmanuel goes through the ‘agenda’ and lists a frighteningly long list of Ministers, politicians and others who are all going to make remarks, between ‘musical interludes’. Given that the remarks are all going to be in the local language, a different one even from that spoken around Wairaka where we live, our resolve to escape is strengthened.

Approaching Mbale with Mt Elgon as backdrop
A stroke of good fortune arose when someone needed something from the van and I had to go and unlock it. That’s me out, now for Anne. She quickly gets the picture that I am not returning to my seat and sneaks out. Emmanuel has noticed and comes to the van to check that we are OK. We reassure him that we are and that we are just going off for a short drive. Unfortunately the delayed start to the trip means that Soroti is too far for us to go, so we decide to head in the other direction to Mbale. We stopped at a small village on the road and grabbed a couple of African donuts and a drink for lunch. The dirt road to Mbale was long and very straight, but quite rough and a lot of side to side driving was needed. It is situated at the foot of Mt Elgon which is a quite spectacular setting.
Mbale was interesting, very different to Jinja. I think it was not as old as Jinja. On the return journey the phone rings, it is Emmanuel. Apparently they are up to the gift giving, and a couple of guests have left theirs in the van. OK, we’ll be back soon. There goes the planned ‘toilet’ stop. But that’s good news, because we remembered it to be well down the agenda.
Fred's graduate friends honoring him
We get back in time for the final remarks from Fred’s fellow graduates. Again we are dragged in to occupy seats front and centre. Then the cake is cut and supper served. The crowd has swelled now - possibly the prospect of food has something to do with that! We eat and then its off to the van. Parties don’t drag on into the night here- electricity costs too much.
Alas, Fred is not making the return journey, so I have lost my guide, and I don’t plan on going back over the washed out culvert in the dark. No worries, I’ve got George.
So we head off and get instruction to turn down another road. It looks dodgy, but my sense of direction tells me its going the right way. Sure enough there are plenty of pot holes and bog holes, but I’m tired and I want to get home so on we plough. Come to a slightly familiar looking village and instructed  to turn left. but its not the road we came on so quickly we stop and directions from the locals are sought. Don’t turn down here they say, just keep following that other road. Now as I said, my sense of direction was happy with it, but I am wondering why Fred didn’t bring us that way if it is shorter. Well he could have. It was no worse that any other sections of the dirt roads that we had been on, nor any better.
George and Fred - with Fred in the gown!
Ah, the highway at last. Phone rings, its Robert Kafeero, wanting to know where we are.Anne explains. A bit later, phone rings again. This time Anne gives it to me. Robert explains that when we get home, call past his place to pick up our supper. “It will be too late to prepare any ‘Mzungu’ food” he says. We arrive at Robert’s place to be greeted by him wearing only a towel and holding a black plastic bag. He has gone to the closest thing to a KFC and got us some roast chicken pieces, chips and salad. I love that guy!
10:30 pm, 14.5 hours, we are finally home. At least everyone appreciated it.

The things we do for love!

What did we learn? Our kids were seriously short changed, but there is a statute of limitations on that that has expired if they have any ideas.

   
The cake - with exploding candles!

Fred's young half sister, Prossie, who kept us company.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Education

This last week has been a lot about thinking seeing and doing 'stuff'' related to education. We have farewelled the great team who finished off houses 5 and 6 which might sound like a little job but in fact, of course it wasn't. Lots of hard work putting a surface on the walls and exterior, painting all the windows and doors, fitting everything out, making and pouring concrete in the area between the houses and kitchen just to name a few things. So, goodbye to them and now we have other guests and all but one are teachers! Hence education, education, education. It has been great to be able to talk about education in all sorts of ways and to have the implementing of stuff with the children as shown in some of the photos. In addition I had the opportunity to meet with the head of curriculum for Uganda.

Kim and Jo are both primary teachers and with the thought of new children coming without any English or education I am very keen to get as many ideas as I can. Ideas not just from them but also from Allie and Adam are flowing and with them working with the children from P1 and P2 in the afternoons. The admin centre is beginning to look more like a lower primary classroom! It is exciting to see and helps me to see ways to help it continue, if only there were more hours in a day! Kim has flown out today ready for Term 4 in Australia but the others are here another week. So, tomorrow I am spending the morning with Jo to tease out a bit of a program for the newbies. She is also doing some study and so hopefully I will be able to help her with answers about the work here. It is so nice to be able to talk about different things and brainstorm together. After all, I think by talking, and to have others who talk education is such a change for me.
Education is really important. For those who have not heard what I think is one of the most significant statistics, over 50% of the population is under 15. Then, when you consider that many students continue secondary school into their 20s due to lack of school fees at different times, the number of people to be educated is enormous. There must be a way that this can happen better and in smaller proportions. I teach over 80 students in my class and yet people are relational as probably the highest priority. Hence, their natural learning styles are squashed, they are forced to learn in more a lecture style environment - imagine 200 preps in one class! However, thinking about numbers, with this many people to educate how can you possibly afford to have small (even 40 would be good!) class sizes? Hence, while we develop a bit of a bridging program for our new children it will be very present in my mind about how this could be adapted to bring to adult groups, villages, and other places.

Our visitors have also been able to go to Hope Community High School where I teach. Jo was handing out penpal letters. Her school in Australia has been able to have a lot of contact. It is a little different as it is primary students interacting with secondary but very valuable none the less. Today when I went many of the students expressed their enjoyment of the visitors. At Hope Community it is exciting to see things developing further in preparation for S5 next year. The building needs to be ready for when the S4s have examinations next month. So, it looks like the roof will be going on today and I have been busy working with the science department on the budget for those monies. It will be great to see a fully equipped science laboratory. Now, the challenge is how to store the materials so that they are available and kept well.Meanwhile while our visitors were at the high school Ron and I went to Kampala. The chief reason for the visit was for me to meet with the Head of Curriculum for Uganda. Of course, other jobs were included as is always the case. We had had the opportunity to meet him on another day and he was keen to renew the acquaintance. He is also the person in charge of mathematics for Uganda and so of particular interest to me. I was able to give him a graphics calculator and a CAS calculator. How amazing is that, the head of mathematics and he had not ever had even a graphics calculator. So many issues we discussed. They still have issues with people wanting log table books to be included. He asked how long ago they were stopped in Australia - we said 30 years (might not be completely accurate but close). There are so many dilemmas even in mathematics education. Inequity is even more evident in a country like this. Many schools struggle even to have students have exercise books and pens while others (probably a small number) are private and have computers and all the facilities. Numeracy is a real issue with so many people not having any concept of number. This is taught so well in our primary schools with concrete aids - hence the need to develop programs here using materials that are readily available.

So, what is happening from these discussions. I have come away with the curriculum documents for all subjects for S5 and S6. My understanding is that I will look at these (of course in particular the mathematics) and make any suggestions - they are not yet in printed form. Then, there is new curriculum coming in for S1 - S4 and this will involve a pilot program and gradual introduction. He is very keen for me to assist in the development of teacher inservicing of the new material and how to teach it. So, who knows how this will pan out but I know that God is guiding and opportunities that arise need to be taken up. It has been so good to have had the background of teaching all year at Hope Community to gain a real insight into the issues, challenges and strengths of teaching here. I will continue to remain in reasonably close contact with Baale, though he is a very busy man with his very important role.

This year has certainly provided me with so much to think about and to ponder. The way forward for education relating to the children in the village, education in schools and ways to assist in the literacy programs for adults. I have seen some poor models, with Ugandan people only knowing a rote form of learning and hence learning English in this way. Having English as my first language I know how most things can be expressed in so many ways. This is not the case here, most people learn one way of saying things which then leads to misunderstanding that boths sides are unaware of in conversations with Muzungus. So, the thinking process continues, the work continues and hopefully the effecting of change continues to have a small part in the breaking of the cycle of poverty.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Interesting times

It is amazing to be here and the different opportunities that present themselves. Last Saturday I was able to attend the 100th anniversary of the starting of a private school here in Wairaka, Jinja. The group that I have been a part of Women of Hope were invited to sing.
So, the day dawned and Ron using the Village bus was all set to transport the ladies at 7.30. Of course in good Ugandan style, the traditionally dresses which had all been made in the same material, wee missing buttons. Judith was endeavouring to rectify the problem the night before but due to power outage had to wait until morning. Hence, their scheduled departure was late. In fact, I was picking up the leader at 9.00 and met them on the way. It was a little wet but I had been assured that the road would be fine. Due to the sewing Judith was not ready and other ladies who were coming with us were delayed. Hence,Ron was able to go up and discover that the road had become vey slippery and so as the wonderful husband he is, he said he would drive us and he could make his own way home.
the lovely JudithWhen we went it was a lot better so I was able to drive most of the way and Ron walked back. Though the conditions did deteriorate significantly later and many had to walk up the hill and about 50 cars were at the bottom of the hill at one stage, just outside our village.
The event was well prepared for with wonderful marquees and plastic seats for all. Our ladies looked wondeful and were so proud and happyto be there. They sang beautifully, danced gracefully and full of energy as only Africans can and looked fantastic. If it was only to see them it would have been worth while. However, there was so much more.
The primary boys school associated with the school, the school boys themselves and the associated girls school all performed a number of items. The dancing is amazing and so great to see. I often thing about the number of experiences I just 'happen' to be able to have. I am truly grateful. It of course was colourful, tuneful without accompaniment and a joy to witness.
Other parts of the four hour proceedings were also interesting and intriguing. There was a church service type of thing at the start with a great message from the Bishop. A person who is highly regarded in Christian circles here.
The school was started by the Church Missionary Society and obviously had English headmasters for quite a time. There were people there from the UK including an ex-teachers and relatives or significant headmasters. The school also had a connection with Manchester Grammar school and students come for their gap year to the school to assist (yes, you can probably hear my mind working!!!) The chairman of the board made a very interesting speech in terms of my experience with education here in Uganda. He suggested that the government (who were significantly represented) should supply teachers with a laptop and that students soon should be required not to have a calculator but to have a smart phone. His significant premise was that the school should not dwell on the past hundred years but look to the future and how to deal with the future. Many things that would be such a jump from what I have seen.
Another important peson, the head of the Old Boys' Association (more commonly the OBs) spoke of past students. The previous president Obote was a former student of the school. He had grown up a peasant and then through the education he gained able to lead the country. Surprisingly to me they also spoke of Museveni being infkuenced by the school. He was very involved with Scripture Union and came to the school and debated with a teacher who was there. The essence of the teacher's perspective was that politics and religion should not mix, Museveni disagreed, but went away convinced of this stwnce, what a great pity that was. Another strange thing ti boast of was that an ex-student was high up with Kony (leader of the LRA - the rebel forces that have caused innumerable atrocities including child soldiers). The bright side of this was that two other ex-students were in the government delegation to meet with him and through the school connection were able to come to a good agreement. Unfortunately, big time, was that Kony did not hold to the agreement.
The government representative who was there somehow had a connection to the school despite being female, it being an all boys school. Museveni could not attend due to being out of the country, in India, the deputy was at the United Nations conference and so in fact she was in charge of the country at that time. The most significant thing from her fir me was the promise from the president for 30 million shillings for the building fund. In Australian dollars this is not much but I know that many many schools would love a small part of this and have more need. Considering the wealth and depth of the old boys of the school one would think that the funds could easily be raised from them. Though to be fair the school is not in a great condition and so had obviously been neglected for some time.
Other important guests came from the Mathvani family. They run the local sugar mills and have donated large amounts to the school, I think enough for the library. I found this recognition hard to handle. Many local people work at the sugar mills and for the lowly workers the conditions are terrible. You may well say but they are employing people. I know of a lady who works there and earns 70000 shillings a month! This is sbout 2500 shillings a day which is a lot less thsn $1 a day and I have heard that if they do not make their quota when cutting cane that they don't get paid. However, donations to organisations and giving scholsrships to university is meant to compensate! Sorry for any cynacism but it is hard to see honour given in these circumstances. I hope that change can happen so that this is not the case. The sugar mill should bring prosperity to this area not added poverty.
All in all, such an interesting event to have been a part of. Our ladies, most of whom are in extreme poverty were guests for a lovely lunch and felt truly special. I am was so pleased for them. It will be a precious memory for them for many years to come and for that I am vy grateful. I too, will remember it as another special event I was privileged to attend.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Big days keep coming

Today has been a big day in all sorts of ways. Being a Friday there was no school. While I waited for Lucy to arrive, I wrote up the start of a document to send to people who have supported the orphanage we visit. Then, off to the village to give a hand to the team. I met a friend on the way, as you do here, another teacher from schook. It was great to hear that she was a lot better as had been a passenger in a boda accident and had nasty wounds to her legs (thanks to the keyboard that nearly said kegs which would have been very rude). She invited me in to her house to bless it. It seemed such a lovely place, it is a real encouragement to see that a widow here is able to manage with her children. It included some nice design features in the part I saw too. We had a pleasant chat, I discovered that a gift from her school at the end of the year might be a punja (matchete) or a hoe or bedsheets! Then, on to do some work with the team once I had changed. Of course I changed into work shorts and tshirt. I was amazed to hear that I looked smart! It even continued into how young I looked. Believe it or not I still looked smart when I was covered in dirt and got back to the house! Let me go back to the work on the house. It has been great to have this team come and ‘fix up’ the two houses. It is not a glamorous job in that they will not go home and say we built a house but it is invaluable and not very pretty work. It is exciting for us though because the houses will be really ready for the new mothers and children which should be coming in a few weeks! The team has taken up the challenge to make them look good and I am looking forward to the results – I have not managed to get back to help them unfortunately but hope to make it again.

Lunchtime, David arrived and was already packed ready to go off to university. This might seem strange for me to talk about but it is life changing. His mother has struggled to educate her children but has been successful and this last born child completed Senior 6 last year. He received his results and achieved recently a place in a diploma course in Clinical medicine and community health but due to finances was not able to take it up. Tuesday, today was the deadline but it did not look good. However, one of the team hearing about his plight, despite his age and limited resources decided to pay his fees, using extra money he has earned by having a gap year. Thank you God for your timing, a young man is now helping another young man. So, in less than 24 hours David’s life has been turned around and he is now in western Uganda making his way at university.

Then, off for a visit with the lovely Gladice, to the orphanage that we have had a bit to do with that is not related to Hopebuilders who we are mainly working with. Well, first a stop at the bank and purchasing the food stuffs. It was a reasonably uneventful visit though I was not that excited by the fact that it had rained and so the roads were very slippery. I continue to be thankful that Ron (and I) were prepared for this adventure with 4-wheel drive experience – Ron in driving, me as a passenger! The children were so excited to see us. A couple of the older girls instantly whisk me away. Then, just want to hold my hand – so special and such a responsibility. One said how she had prayed that we would come – they needed school fees paid which thanks to Australian generosity we were able to do. They also needed school jumpers, we might think it an extravagance but people here really feel the cold. It was so good to be able to facilitate this as well. It was a short lived visit though as we needed to be back in town.

We got back in time to meet the team at the lovely Gately restaurant (only naming for those who know the place). The grounds are so relaxing and then we had a great meal. The beauty of going with a team is you get to see a variety of meals and learn other things to order on future visits. (I have to make the most of the opportunities as we do go out here but only rarely in Australia.) The evening was very pleasant though the Australian who is looking after the place was a bit ‘interesting’. Then, home at last. Due to the darkness and us being more local we drove both the vehicles. Hence, for the second time in a week I drove in the dark here in Jinja. I think God must send angels to clear the way for me as it was not too bad at all. It can be quite terrible driving in the dark as you have to look out for constant pedestrians, cyclists without any lighting, bodas coming at you on the wrong side of the road and then of course there is the normal taxis and cars and then extra trucks parked for the night on the side of the road. But, home safe and sound, just another day in Uganda.

Monday, September 19, 2011

We are back

There is a long time between drinks as the expression goes but it is with the best of intentions. It became impossible to do the blog each day and in some ways I found so much of what I would write simply to be a travel diary. I suppose that would have been all right but not sure that I wanted to think too much about what we were doing. So, here we are back home in Uganda. Yes, it is home. In England I really felt that we did have two lives and it is up to us to appreciate both of them.
The trip back was reasonably uneventful but long. We arrived at Dubai airport a bit late, long taxi in, bus trip to terminal,and then about a 2 km walk/run from one end to the other of the airport in order to catch our plane. Unfortunately, due to the heat and the effort carrying stuff, I managed to get a headache which...tends to have a poor effect on my stomach...one too many bumps and yes I was sick. Then, not such a good trip home, poor Richard (the driver).
Anyway, that is all in the past. We have come back and of course plenty to do. The house had been well looked after by Robert and Rachel. A little brighter than when we left, I will try and add a photo of the bright painted exterior. There were quite a number of people ready for our return. The economics of life for people here have only got worse which makes the need even greater. It is amazing to hear today "Sugar is only for rich people!" We are so blessed and there is a bit of a sense of guilt about having such a lovely holiday in England.
The break must have been good for us. I was told I don't know how many times how I had changed. The children even thought it wasn't really Aunt Anne when we arrived. Though it did not of course take long. One friend said to me, "You have got fat, you are huge, you must be 80 kg!" Great diplomacy here! Ron was even told he had put on weight by the bank manager. Some were nicer, you look so much younger, it shows how much you work when you are here.
Last week already seems so long ago. There was a long staff meeting to deal with, chasing up of things and catching up with friends. One big disappointment recently has been that a friend is trying to do a Christian counselling course with YWAM in Perth and has been refused a Visa. Again tonight she rang to say it had been rejected a second time. Her wonderings about why and the expense she has incurred in applying. Her email said it all, I am praying for Australia! Why do they think I would not come back? So hard. We are so welcome here and yet it is not possible for her to train in Australia. Yes, I know the problems with illegals etc.

I wonder when I will make it to post this, so it might be no photos tonight but get it done. It was so wonderful to be welcomed back by the children, it nearly made me cry when they sang a song to us about how welcome we were. They are so special. It is such an awesome privilege to be part of their lives but also such a responsibility. Even if we do not come back for extended times, I know that we will always be concerned for their well being. It was good to be home.
After a busy week of settling back on Saturday morning we rushed into town to pick up things we had not had a chance to get, back to the house to go pick up our next team. Pity things neve happen as you expect. The bus did not arrive, and the driver seems to have taken a trip to Kampala early, so another bus and driver were arranged. Where would we be without Robert? However, the journey was not quite as quick as it should have been with a whole lot of 'jams'. So, we finally managed ti pick up the team, very late and had the long trip home. Better than my trip earlier in the week. The lovely Lucy had made some beautiful frittata and zucchini slice for us to enjoy and so, without lunch Ron and I certainky appreciated it. It was too late for the team to see the children so they went up to the cillage in the morning and took the children to church. The team was extra big with six extras. It was lovely to have the Vanderzags and an honour to be there with them. Casey had been part of the first team and then died far too young with cancer but Uganda and the village was such an important part of his life. Sue his wife made this trip with other family members. It was hard for them as they could recognise so much of what meant so much to him and they miss him so much. Again for me, it is a case of how fortunate I am. Ron too came and this place captured his heart and yet the future was and continues to be so different for us. We all shared in a lovely memorial type service at the rock. This was particularly poignant as stories were told of his time there and the impact he had. Amazingly, or more in line with God's timing and connectedness, Casey was responsible for paying for Robert Tumwesigye fees to complete his course at YWAM. Now, the dream that Casey had is so much in Robert's hands as he manages the village. This is will something special always to have been able to be there for.
The Vanderzags left on Tuesday morning early and the team has been working on getting houses 5 and 6 ready. The rest of the team consists of a family of four, another older couple, a young guy and the lovely Gladice from our church. She is a real blessing and great to have her here. Not only does she bring love and news from home but a very bright spark in just who she is. They are doing well and managing the idiosyncracies of life here with power and water intermittently going off. I have not been very involved with their activities at the village with my own commitments here and managing the house stuff. Tomorrow I am hoping to get down and do some work with them.
Other things continue to happen. The needs here have only increased with prices not reducing. It is so hard to hear that sugar is now something only for the rich. Fortunately we are in the position to assist people but that is so much about being in the place of much and other so little, what a responsibility.
I wrote more last night but on concluding something went wrong and it did not post so I am posting this and will start a new blog post soon.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Loving



Day two: God is good. It has been a great day full of God's goodness to us. We really enjoyed going to a Vineyard church in Canterbury. We had planned this part of the holiday with going to a Vineyard church in mind. It was so nice, it felt like being at home without the people we know! A great service, we even understood everything! A really good sermon on Ephesians 5 and God's love for us and our response to what He has done for us. It was so refreshing for us, even met a lovely lady in the break and she asked if she could pray for us! It was very special, though there were quite a number of times when some actions needed to be suppressed, like saying 'Amen', or dancing or clapping at the end of prayer or...
Then, another visit to a supermarket - never thought these things would be so novel! Cornish pasties for lunch, quick visit to a couple of other shops to get a phone card and internet. Interesting conversation with the lady in the shop who would love to do what we are doing if she could afford to, so genuinely interested. Then, a lovely drive through some beautiful countryside. Saw the magnificent Dover Castle from the outside and went for a great walk at "the white cliffs of Dover". I will include a picture of Exmoor ponies, especially for my mum. The ferries going between England and France were very busy and it was amazing to look down on this little city.
More pleasant driving and a stop at Sandwich, a really quaint English town, saw (from a distance) where the British Open was played and searched in vain for a nice open cafe for a cup of tea. On to Ramsgate, a very different place on the water. It was much more touristy and in many ways more Australian with much more open spaces and types of houses. A nice drink and nachos on the waterfront. Then, on back to the hotel. A lovely relaxing day, full of knowing love, being loved and loving seeing so many different things of beauty.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

First day away

Well, we managed to get away. I might say only just because we did not manage all the jobs on Thursday, so Friday morning bright and early saw us in Jinja town buying necessities, visiting banks and generally moving fast. In fact even on Thursday night things did not go quite the way we would have hoped. There were relationships to work on, handing over of things to be done and with the painting of the house and workers there until 7, it was generally a very busy day. Then, when we thought we would pack (at about 9.30 - 10), the solar lights failed. It has been a very non-sunny period recently. Apparently the wet season has come but at a different time to ever before. So, the battery has not charged enough for all the use of the lights all day with the painter etc. A little earlier the power had also gone out, but this is so common that we just expect it. Hence, packing was not easy under the light of the desk lamps.
So, most of the packing done, not all and the driver coming for us at 10.00, it was all go. A quick visit to the village, with quick waves - not a great way to say goodbye but I don't think there were too many tears. We made it though and were waving goodbye at 10.00. Stopped off in Kampala to get our money back on some hair clippers. We managed it fine, I think the fact that we had two pairs and neither had worked helped. Plenty of phone calls to deal with final things, both me(Anne) remembering things and Ron getting calls. Then, a good run to the airport and ready to book in. We managed to get our luggage upgraded to business but not us! Unfortunately, we were also notified at check-in that the plane had been delayed. This delay went longer than expected.... So, we waited quite a bit longer at Entebbe for the plane. Later, we discovered that some people who were aboard had planned to get off at Addis Addaba and had to come to Entebee first, so I don't think they were happy. Finally we got going and looking a the time with only two hours at Dubai, we wondered what would happen and inquired of the air hostess. She simply said that since there were others that we would probably be all right. The trip to Dubai was probably the worst that we have had with Emirates, the staff must have had to do a lot more with the extra people. However, for us it was a bit trying as we were so tired before going. So, we get to Dubai - since our seat was as close to First class you can get, we were out as quickly as possible, thinking that since there was 20 minutes before the plane left that we were booked on. However, after going to the transfer desk, we discovered that we had been off loaded because the luggage would not be ready to transfer. So, we then had 6 hours at Dubai - just what you want at 2 am in the morning. We did manage a little sleep and had a buffet breakfast provided (us and hundreds of others) and then made it to board the plane. Then, there were so many planes that we had to wait, but in the waiting process they discovered something about the electricals that that had to be checked. They got the all clear but there was no airspace!!! The trip from Dubai to London was uneventful for us and we managed to catch some sleep between the food supplies. Really pleased to see our luggage arrive in London, so thought ah, now comes holiday. Wrong, still a wait to go. Ron booked the rental car online, so we thought this will just be a quick pick up. Wrong, it took 50 minutes from arriving at the desk to getting the car! Anyway, nice Ford Focus and on the smooth, smooth road. We arrived safely in Herne Bay, staying in a lovely hotel.
Settled in, and found a Tesco Express - such fun, "look at this", "remember these" and "only that much". We walked out without buying anything, the ice cream would melt if we bought it then. Bought fish and chips by the sea, yes, the sea and sand and watched English children play on the semi-sand. Beautiful clear blue sky and so so English. Back to Tesco and bought supplies, of course including the Vienetta ice cream (only 1.53 pounds). Followed by a luxurious bath, cleaned some things up (sorry housekeeping about the hand towel) and then a beautiful night's sleep! We are on holidays. Sorry, forgot to take the camera to the beach - will have to put in a photo of it later.
There are a couple of other blog posts that are on the go about Uganda that will be in the wrong spot probably when I complete them.