Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Huw's blog - A tourist Awakes

We had a great time when Huw visited last week and asked him to write a blog for us:

Its not every day that this could happen and it must have been a great floor show for the children as they flocked to see the muzungus make fools of themselves. The road up the hill was really rather gentle, if quite long, but what had caused the matattu to come to a final slithering stop was the mud - the red clinging treacherous Ugandan country road mud. The mud was very slippery and the hill was very long and now the muzungus were pushing. The timing could not have been better - the school had just finished for the day. In seconds we were engulfed by bright chattering laughing faces and crisp clean purple cotton shirts and dresses. Hellohowareyouimfine, again and again and again. Hello man, how are you? I am Huw, who are you? We answered happily, and laughed at ourselves, ridiculous in swimming shorts and T-shirts, still wet from this morning’s White Nile rafting. Our exhilaration and euphoria persisted, the red mud would wash, the banter with the children felt sparkling and who would not be moved by such a sea of smiling laughter. Soon we would be in a nice warm shower, bathing in the glow of self congratulatory well being.

Then Jan, working here for a year now, the old hand, whispers urgently in my ear - Huw, do you see the boy with the huge spleen. That one with the big abdomen in the blue T-shirt. No. thats just malnutrition, the one next to him. See him, with the red shirt. See him. And I saw him. And I saw that not all the children wore the purple cotton and carried the school notebooks, and that although most had the happy smile a lot had stick thin limbs and swollen abdomens. And I saw the sunken eyes and tiredness of hardship and malnourishment in their faces. And behind them, on the fringes, were the quiet ones, reticent and watchful. And then those peering round rickety house fronts or through dark dark sacking covered doorways and window openings. What about them?

The hill was long. Too long for the children who slowly gave up the pursuit. The grinding poverty now all too obvious, the muzungus, quieter now, trudged on with sandals and feet choked with the cloying red mud, until kicking and scraping we tried in vain to clean our feet before struggling back into the comfort of the matattu. As we did so, the white MRC four wheel drive pick up eased comfortably by. Through the open window came the quiet sly mocking of its Ugandan driver, “Welcome to Africa

This is entirely true. After all as Jan would say “In Uganda, all muzungus are millionaires”

Friday, June 15, 2007



Ten reasons I love Uganda

  1. The climate – out at dinner last night someone recalled “getting into a cold bed” – we’d all completely forgotten
  2. The variety – honestly, no two days are the same
  3. The challenge – anyone who knows me knows how I love a challenge
  4. Walking – always something amazing, interesting or funny to look at, always someone to talk to
  5. Fruit – fantastic pineapples, mangoes, passion fruit, tomatoes, bananas, papaya.....
  6. The work – it’s the work I was born to do
  7. The smiles – Even if people look somehow serious they are usually grinning within a couple of seconds of greeting
  8. The colours – green lush vegetation, red soil, blue skies, bright clothes
  9. The money – at 3400UGX to the £ it’s the only way I’ll ever be a millionaire
  10. The versatility – everything has value, everything can be mended, everything is reused

Ten reasons I hate Uganda

  1. The corruption – see previous blogs. It’s everywhere
  2. People die – poverty and ill health takes a massive toll, death is everywhere and often needless
  3. Dust and diesel – I walk a lot. Dust and diesel fumes are my enemy
  4. Not enough novels – ran out a while back
  5. Power sharing and water cuts – part of daily life and a real pain
  6. Bugs – despite discovering ‘repel’ at a magnificent 55% deet I’m still sporting a fine collection of mozzie bites
  7. Internet speed – honestly, you can make a cuppa and go to the loo whilst waiting to connect
  8. An undercurrent of violence – intimidating crowds can gather very quickly
  9. Timekeeping – shocking and irritating lateness for a type A like me
  10. The noise – dogs bark, babies cry, birds and frogs sing and people party ALL NIGHT
  11. “Yes please” – why can’t people just say what they mean?

Yes, I know there are eleven. Can’t decide which one to leave out....time to go home?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Dr Dollar

Dr Dollar

For the last month or so Kampala has been decorated with billboards announcing the imminent arrival of Dr Dollar. He is an evangelical preacher from the US who will appear at Namboole Stadium in front of a full house of 80,000 later this month.

His message is the usual televangelist one. Unquestioning faith and espousal of rigidly conservative moral views will bring you wealth and happiness.

This stuff angers me.

The hypocrisy angers me. Preachers are often tainted individuals who persuade an impoverished flock to part with money and goods to enrich them. One famous one here drives around in a brand new pink $100,000 Humvee.

The blind and unthinking superstition angers me. Last month Billy Hinn captured the first 4 pages of the principal national daily paper. The headline: “MIRACLES!” Not one but eleven miracles took place whilst he preached to the masses. All eleven miracles (the lame walking, the blind seeing, the deaf hearing etc) were reported in uncritical detail. No comment or question.

American evangelists love it here. There is a large audience for the deeply conservative views propounded – no sex except within marriage, no condoms, no abortions, no homosexuality. This is dangerous and hypocritical rhetoric. Uganda is a very sexual society with an average age of 14. Having multiple partners is the norm. Even the preachers juggle more than one wife. HIV and STI prevalence is high. Young women are dying everyday from illegal abortions and unwanted pregnancies. Time for a liberal revolution....