Tuesday, 24 April 2012

24th April

It was time to leave Masaka! We had so many intense experiences, the children were home from school so no more visits to the orphanage, fewer visits to the farm and the oven was finished!
There it stands a Muzungu curiosity, some thought it might be a shrine and until the inner layer of sand came out most thought it a very very strange oven with a solid middle but smiled benignly as we puddled clay and kept adding layers.
But finished and decorated it is ready to go, the rains allowed it to dry slowly so very few cracks. We left leaving careful instructions a few recipes and a prayer!
The last night we made pancakes and were then entertained by truly spectacular dancing, drumming and singing and really very kind words of thanks for all we had done. Sad to leave but timely!
So now we are living in luxury in Backpackers, Kampala! Hot water and a bath, wow! A few days to relax, read, check the local brews and explore just a little. Walking into the city centre today was as busy as anyone could wish. A dust bowl of heaving humanity scratching a living out of very little, wrapped in pollution from the Boda Boda and taxi fumes competing to keep the city moving in ever decreasing circles.
We are so aware of how lucky we are.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Toast and all that!

Our decadent ways are creeping in, time to leave soon! Hector bought jam last night and we showed them how to make toast on the charcoal fire, the bread is sweet and the jam is sugar with a touch of fruit.
Paskazia was pounding the coffee beans with a huge pounding stick made from coffee wood, so we also took turns making the next batch for our breakfast.
The oven has it’s first coat of clay, what more can we say apart from that we have everything crossed that it will work.

Back to Matooke

The staple food literally called “food” here is Matooke. It is plantain cooked in a little water, covered with banana leaves to keep the moisture in and accompanied with either pounded ground nuts or a mix of tomatoes, onions and carrots. At times delicious and at times just that bit too much landing with a thwack in our stomachs!

So what can we tell you?
We have experienced Catholicism in Uganda, full of splendor, so many people, almost to overflowing but as white visitors we were relegated to the plastic chairs at the back. The service was in Ugandan, the singing beautiful.
There is another Helpx visitor here, Hector from Argentina, he is great and has added a new dimension of humour to the house. Full of ambiguity!
The first day back we went to pick the first coffee harvest, all those beans that were starting to ripen in the sun as the rain season is late to start. It was hard work with the baskets strapped to our waists with banana leaves and after shedding personal kilos of sweat we had picked approximately one fifth of the weight picked by Paskazia and Josephine. No new employment here then! Got the pictures to put on our CVs though!
The other major activity has been the ongoing construction of a clay oven (our present to Paskazia and Gonzaga.) It is at the sand dome stage and you can tell from the passing glances and smiles we are now definitely certified as crazy Muzungos. Materials are shall we say interesting! The clay is dug from the local swamp and is a doubtful mix of clay, sand, silt and possibly swamp creatures so we are hoping to get some more pure bags for the next stage. Richard has been rightly decreed technical exert and I love playing with mud so all are happy.
So once again tunalabagana and siiba bulungi.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Time Away

So many thoughts and impressions as we travelled! Here is our shared writing expressing some of it! Hope you enjoy.

Abundant Poverty

Simplicity abounds amongst abundant poverty,
Where fairness is elusive between the termite mounds.
Brother competes with brother in a forlorn attempt
To break the habit of idleness.
A fast world dips into this slow existence,
Takes rather than gives and leaves its trace in envy.
Like trees around an unfulfilled honeypot,
Strangers come to play “Muzungo” money will
Pave the way to the promised land
But dirt tracks lead to the other side of life,
A flawed beauty hung in the water’s stillness,
Grasping smiles and beseeching eyes call you back,
Ancient stories etched in the volcanic rock.
Hard unyielding tracts calling on softened hearts,
Helpless in the maelstrom,
Oblivion the only release
As you

The words give part of the story, the other side is we relaxed on the shores of the beautiful Lake Bunyonyi, ate delicious food (crepes filled with pineapple, passion fruit and bananas) even a glass of red wine! When sober we looked as though we were drunk as we tried to steer a dugout canoe, much to the amusement of the locals.

From the lake we went back to Kabale, stayed a couple of days at the backpackers. It is very much a tourist town, everything with chips for the travellers. After a six hour bus journey that started an hour late because of a row over seats we arrived back in Masaka. The journey was enlivened as we watched police bribery,  stops at numerous small roadside markets where passengers were besieged and beseeched to buy roast goat on a stick etc.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Week ending 1st April - HAPPY BIRTHDAY EMMA

We are writing this sitting in an Internet café where all profits go to orphans of AIDS victims. We ordered some coffee about 30 mins ago and presume it will come along sometime. We are now learning to live in African time!

Gonzaga and Paskazia are registered with HelpX and Couch Surfing so there have been more visitors this week. Judith, researching a social enterprise project in Masaka producing Afripads. (Eco-friendly, locally produced menstrual pads 20% of the cost of pads bought in local shops. Many young girls can’t afford to buy pads so use rags etc. and miss many days of school). Another visitor Pete is just travelling post uni looking for experiences, work and more! He is an amazing blues harp player. He has left now to work with a film crew shooting a film about the life of a boy soldier called: “The Jungle I Know.” A film to look out for in the future.
Our experiences have been weeding, weeding and more weeding! Cooking, a visit to a local beach resort on Lake Victoria and an aborted visit to an organic farming centre as they wanted to charge 10,000 Ugandan shillings (approx. £2.75) just to let us look around and our hosts thought that was much too much!

Something we eat with nearly all meals and is absolutely the staple diet here is called “Matooke.” It is steamed plantain with a sauce made from different veg and spices (carrots, onion, garlic, tomatoes etc.) It is delicious and known to Ugandans as “Food”. We will be posting a picture of it being cooked when we have the presence of mind to remember to bring the USB cable to the internet café to download the pictures from the camera!!

Tomorrow is our second visit to the orphans’ school where Paskasia is going to show the children and us how to make soap. We are then going to entertain by teaching them a version of “Old MacDonald had a farm” using Ugandan names and any other spontaneous antics that may occur!

Next week we are heading off to Kabale on the Rwanda road to travel a bit and see more of Uganda for 10 days or so. Then we are returning to build a clay oven for our hosts. All cooking is on open fires with toxic smoke causing hacking coughs. It would be so easy just to add canopies to gather the smoke but as always here, costs are prohibitive and so families just endure the smoke filled atmosphere.

Today, Saturday 31st March, we returned to see the orphans at their school. We were overwhelmed! Young children, who are far more proficient than us using knives, building fires and who can work together without grasping. Children who are excited about making soap, being given things that are taken for granted by the poorest children in Europe AND it was us that were showered with “offerings”! Dolls made from banana leaves, balls from plastic bags and twine, avocado, eggs, sugar cane wrapped in leaves and decorated, heady perfumed flowers collected and all given with thanks and humility.
Paskazia had taken bars of soap, she showed the children how to chop them into small pieces, boil them with Aloe Vera, water and a little powder to make 10 bars from the original 2! Now they can wash their clothes!
Richard drove home along the bumpy tracks with an increasingly sharp pain in his back, which he guessed was kidney stones! Several hours later diagnosis confirmed by a Ugandan doctor trained in Nottingham, we came home armed with medication. A deep sleep later we have had an easy day playing ball, reading a little gentle veg chopping and lots of water drinking. No more pain!