Sunday, August 21, 2011


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.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Patience is a virtue, I learnt that from very young. Does it mean I learnt patience, not at all. I have discovered that patience is needed, that patience can be learnt and can be a change of attitude. I often think it is interesting where I have patience and where I don't. I am totally inpatient with someone who should know what to do and doesn't. I can be very patient with a child learning a new skill. I am not patient waiting... And, that is probably the place that patience is most needed here.

The other Friday, (yes, I know I should be more regular in getting on to writing blogs) I had a good day to learn patience. And, because I am such a slow learner, Saturday also showed me I needed to learn more! Friday morning, off to town - some money needed from the bank from Hopebuilders. Ron, goes into the bank and I go to buy a Senior 2 mathematics text. Oh, sorry no Senior 2 but you could have Senior 3 or Senior 4. [Lesson - shops can't stock books that people cannot afford to buy - Senior 2 is only on the way to the main exams] Then, back to the bank, to wait with Ron. Of course, he was still waiting. He has to see the bank manager and so it is usually an hour wait. Then, in and see her. Oh, but we want to open a bank account for us. Fill in the forms, which of course we did but a passport photo is needed. Before we go for the passport photo we go to do the other paperwork. There is a wait, "how about you go and get the photo and come back?" There is an "express" place across the road. "Yes, five minutes is all it will take if you pay for express". The photos taken, we waited... We waited. "Sorry it will be another 10 minutes". We go off in search of the elusive textbook. No luck there and back to the shop. "I am very sorry but we cannot use those photos, we will need to take more". One hour later, after entering the shop we leave with the photos. Back to the bank. "So, pleased you were delayed because we have a problem, the person who does this is away so we have had to send someone to the other branch"... The account is opened, we have an account number and soon we will have a card to go with it.
Quickly buy other necessities, we now know our way around the market and the shops so unless we need something specific (like a textbook) we can usually find it quickly. We did find a secondhand textbook near the market you will be pleased to know. Home we go.
Some lunch, and off to the village. It was great to see the children with their reports. Patience of a different kind is needed though. Here in Uganda at the bottom of the report is the position in the class. This is the defining thing. When a student is asked how they went on their report, the answer will be as a position in the class. We, do not see this as the significant thing and we also believe that children need to be encouraged. Rarely, if ever is there a positive comment on the report and the comments are kept to an absolute minimum. I do have to add that the preschool reports are different and show achievements in each of the small categories for example "able to tie up their shoe laces"; "able to recognise the letters of the alphabet". So, I patiently care for the child who is feeling like their world is falling apart, because they did not get a great report and they are in a significant year of schooling. This type of patience (with the child - not the system) I am better at.
At 4 pm I am meant to have a meeting about the health needs of the village and community. So, I am ready! OK, I need to learn patience. It has been wet and when it rains, nobody goes anywhere. I have been told "I was fearing the rain". So, I wait. Finally some people did come and the meeting proceeded. Though to be honest sometimes these meetings can seem to take forever to get very little distance. Why? It would be easy to say, these people do not have good thinking skills or don't understand things quickly. In fact, I have come to recognise that things need to be repeated because most of the time people do not have access to written words to refer back to. Hence, they have to remember everything and this is most easily done by repetition. I don't remember a lot of things because I know I can find the information quickly and easily without doing so. Being here is such a learning curve, not only as far as patience is concerned.
Home again, a little later than hoped for but for a really pleasant evening.
Not a lot of patience needed when you get to share a meal with four lovely young ladies. These were the second oldest group of girls: Brenda Mary, Fiona, Martha and Carol. They always brighten our days, they make us laugh. They spent some of the evening working out which bed was theirs to sleep on. Convinced that they should be allowed to sleep, in fact I think come and live with us!
Saturday dawned. There were things to do before heading off to the first 'Parent Meeting of Hope Community High School'. My role was to be there for welcoming. I made sure I knew all the appropriate salutations in Lusoga. I had been told 9.30 am, must be there. Of course I joked "9.30 am Mzungu time, 8.00 am African time". Oh, if only it had been a joke! I got there and helped to get the table decorated (now know how to make paper flower decorations Ugandan style) and generally assist. At 10.00 am (official starting time of the meeting), there were a few staff there, no parents and me alone at the gate! Two gentleman arrived very close to 10.00, as did Ron (he should have taken his own advice to come at 11.00). Soon, after he arrived he was sent home to print the agenda for everyone to have! Then, slowly and I mean slowly people began to arrive. The other teacher who was on welcoming had to do the cooking as someone was not well. A student and I managed (somehow), the problem was that she too does not speak Lusoga, she is from Tanzania. So, you can see there was need for patience. The meeting did start about an hour and a half late. Then, I was summoned to come to be introduced as a teacher. Very unfortunately, I ended up at the front, seated on show! Patience was needed as I said through a lot of talking and for most of the time understanding very very little. However, I must say it was a good parent meeting and great to see so many people come, better late than never. Lunch was at 3.30 pm and then the meeting continued through until 6 p.m. A big day!
The children are patient. They have shown this in the way that they have quickly learnt to knit. They patiently sit there and try and then I undo when there is a mistake too hard to fix. Then, they try again. Now, only a bit over a week since they started learning lots of the children in the village can knit. Some can even cast on and off. Soon, it will be purl and then... The children help me continually to enjoy life, not to be stressed when I need to simply be patient. People here are good at sitting waiting and don't think it is their right to have things happen when they want it. Perhaps, a compromise would be good. Then, there are other times when I need to be patient as people do not understand me, or sometimes people choose not to do what is required, or when I simply cannot communicate. I find it hard that people know how to be patient when their need is urgent. However, I am learning (slowly) that patience is important and to deal with the waiting process. I suppose it is like that good old saying "I find it hard to be patient, while learning how to be patient".

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Different things

I figure that it is important for people to understand and know some of the things that take up our days. I am doing some teaching. My load at the school is probably about 0.25, though of course I am not paid. This has been a great opportunity and I really feel that I know much more about what teaching is about here. The challenges, the things that make it easy and also the fact that due to the numbers a teacher is not accountable for the performance of students. Mainly how a student achieves depends on the teacher covering the whole syllabus and the student being able to learn in a very lecture type of situation. There are not resources to do a lot of things - even looseleaf paper! It is hard to work lunchtime at school
out what to do in some of these situations because I could simply buy the paper but that is not an option for other staff. In fact, I gave a staff member a red pen the other day and they thought I was nice and generous. There isn't a lot of room for students to do things and you need to write only on certain parts of the board otherwise some students cannot read it. Then, there is the challenge of using words that students understand. Or, the fact that students are allowed in all secondary schools to hop up and go for 'a short call' , or a toilet break whenever they like. So many differences, though one of the most challenging is the style of learning inherent within Uganda. Rote learning is a perfected art. You start a sentence and end with what.. and people fill in the gap. There are set answers for things, so much so that often there is only seen to be one correct answer! However, this is not the way the curriculum authorities want things to be. They want students to learn to think, to have solutions to everyday problems and a related understanding. At the present time, the only form of assessment used that I know of in schools that I have connection with is examinations. These are set very much in line with the end of S4 exam or S6 depending on a student's level. Learning is geared for the examinations. One student we know is studying Geography, quite a capable young man. However, he does not really understand why there is day and night, or the difference between the USA and UK. Why? Simply because it is not on the curriculum and there are not other means to learn. That too is such a strange concept, little if no access to reading material, very few homes have power and so even fewer television, and the same with internet access. Internet access even within schools is so so limited. The picture on the right is of the exam room - two classrooms combined.

You can only imagine the challenges I face trying to deal with some things. Yesterday, I spent most of the day getting the school out of a 'little hole'. The printing for exams has previously been completed on an inkjet printer. I offered to print as many as they liked on the laser printer, which I had done. Only on Monday, I still checked how things were going with the exams. Anyway, an urgent call yesterday, the last day of exams...the inkjet printer had failed and they needed to print some exams. We went to the school, discovered that one had not even been properly typed up and others were not printed. We rushed home with the secretary and printed the exam that was meant to be happening then, and one for the middle of the day. She then left and I finished printing the last exam (8 pages for 100 students), which took hours! Our little laser printer struggled at the end but made it through. It is so tempting to go in like a bull at a gate and take over, so daily I pray for wisdom in handling the situation. Planning ahead is not a strong attribute of the people and probably one of my strengths. I am working more with the school and endeavouring to raise finances and partnership for them to assist with future and present development. Plus, of course mark 80 exam papers.
I have met with the director of secondary curriculum of Uganda and he has encouraged me to make further contact but it needed to be now rather than earlier. He is also the specialist in the maths curriculum. I look forward to continued discussions with him and being of some assistance there. He gave us a very warm reception and I think having someone who has experience, knowledge and understanding of the Ugandan situation is helpful.
The children and mothers at the village continue to be a high priority including helping Robert and Millie as they take on the role of village managers. Last week I worked with some children making shorts as they needed some for a netball game. The girls did a great job, despite limited time to make shorts and so there are other children wanting to learn to sew. Then, this week I took on the challenge of starting to teach children to knit. That was fun, and exhausting! Aunt Anne could be heard right through the room. Fortunately, one of the children had picked it up well and she became a 'second Aunt Anne'. Now, I am trying to work on a bit of a program for the school holidays to assist the children with their school work, provide activities and generally make the holidays good, productive and happy times. We will be away for three weeks, so it is important that there are things that can be done that mean the holidays are not too onerous on Robert, Millie and the mothers.
Ron, in the meantime continues to mainly be busy with the building. The sixth house now has a roof. He put the trusses up with some workers and extra rafters. I do not like to think of the number of times he has been up on the roofs of houses, though he is lighter and I suspect more agile than when we came! The kitchen between these two houses is on its way. Then, there is the food shopping - he introduced Robert to this, this week. He also has to go and get the extra roofing nails or the building supplies - it used to be a daily event getting cement. Days are not predictable but always full of different things. Recently as shown in the picture he has been busy making the corner guttering for the houses. This will mean we can harvest the rain and have it fill the tanks. This will be a big saving for the village. Then, there have been bits and pieces that have had to be done on Suubi House. At the moment he is preparing a sermon for Sunday. Other times, he is called on by many around to pray for them or he is asked for advice.
One thing is for sure, our lives are not boring. They are very unpredictable. I have failed to mention the needs that get presented to us on a daily basis. The drought is having a devastating effect on people with many people we are told eating only one meal a day. The price of food is rocketing - sugar has gone from 3500 shillings to 5200 shillings in a matter of weeks. However, at this stage we are not seeing anything like the things we see on the television with Somalia. Relating to people is also important, so we are constantly having people visit, I drop in and see people on my way and then the lovely children that greet me as a I walk.
Hopefully this gives a bit more of a picture of our lives - though to be realistic, it is all too hard to describe.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Joyful moments

It is amazing how many days can be full of changes, frustrations as well as seeing things that are just not as they should be. However, every day also includes little moments that are a pure delight, that put a smile on your face, that make one remember the simple things in life. Let me share with you some of these things.
The other day I went to the village and as usual (but never taken for granted) my hand is taken, my bag carried and constant chatter fills my walk. Then, there was only limited time for the children to come into the admin centre as I had a meeting happening there. I had them help me put out the chairs and "No, you can't play, can't write on the blackboard....". So, I said how about you sing and started clapping. For the next 30 minutes (yes, my meeting was very late) I was serenaded with songs and dancing from these wonderful children. They took turns, sometimes it was the preschoolers, sometimes the older ones. There was a huge variety of songs, actions and dances. You cannot bottle this stuff, you cannot pay a fortune for the opportunity. This was just spontaneous, lovely singing and entertainment and I really appreciated it.
Or, today I was buying a cabbage from the corner garden where some children live and they had a lot of cabbages on display. The cabbage was very cheap and I thought I would like to give them each 100 shillings. I was overawed by the response. It was like I had given them something really big - in terms I know it was less than 5 cents each. Simple things that give pleasure at no cost to me! How fortunate I am!
Sometimes I contemplate our lifestyle. Yes, we live reasonably simply - very by Australian standards. However, we are in such a privileged situation, we are able to help people a lot without it costing us a lot. The Australian dollar is worth so much here that $20 is about 56,000 shillings, which is a very good week's pay for a lot of people. So, money given is making a big difference. The hard bit is that the situation for local people is so hard that they do need us to be generous. We are trying and pray that we will always know the best way to give.
Other fun, simple things are having a shower in the late afternoon - the water isn't cold as it has been in the pipes for a while. There is something so nice about a little warmth in the water when showering on a cool (relatively) day.
With the new house we have committed to having small groups of children and the mothers to come to visit here and share a meal with us. This has been such fun already. We had no idea that it would bring about such pleasure. Anticipation has been high, and then the first evening beautifully attired little young ladies with a mother joined us for dinner. The little girls spent a lot of time, in the way that all young girls should, by giggling and having fun. We have discovered that the most interesting room in our house is ...of course...the toilet! We have only done it twice but all the children are happy because there is a schedule up of when their turn will come. We feel very much like grandparents with the children coming to have a special meal, a game and a chance to view pictures of African animals from our recent safaris. It is such a great time.
So, yes there are challenges but there are a lot of things that we love and enjoy. Everyday, there are genuine smiles on our faces as we enjoy our lives here.