Monthly Archives: October 2015

Playing by the rules

Polling station

Polling station

Yesterday there were primary elections in Uganda, ahead of the national poll taking place next February; candidates have apparently been ‘campaigning’ by handing out shoes, soap and other gifts. We were advised to stay at home after 4pm; there’d been some messing around in a nearby town and rumours of teargas.

It was less dramatic here, thankfully. After the polling stations closed, a gang of young lads sped recklessly up and down the highway in a truck, cheering loudly, a dozen of them crammed in or leaning out the window, plus a few lying back across the bonnet. After dark, a small crowd gathered noisily at the town council office across the road, but the sound was of celebration, not protest.

This morning as we were about to get started with class, a bunch of young teenagers in school uniform appeared. Continue reading

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Pig & blankets

My four students, Ugandan volunteers from their early 20s to about 50, arrived more or less on time (on African time) this morning. Susan promptly handed a bundle of blankets over to the boss, who sat at the desk next to us with the sleeping 1-month-old Elijah across her lap the rest of the morning. The shriek of a pig being slaughtered just outside was a bit more distracting, but otherwise things sort of went to plan (photos coming once internet more available).

The level of education, and of confidence, varies widely in the group. Zai has her own business – making peanut butter – and Vincent has two university degrees. The others are shy and unsure, with more of a language barrier too. We’ve got quite a lot to do, in less than two weeks: the idea is to get them started on gathering photos and interviews for the website, while giving them a chance to develop new skills.  Continue reading

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Power-saving mode

On the way here, Gerald the driver told me he watches Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and The Weakest Link on BBC Entertainment. Why did so many places in England have names ending in ‘shire’ and why was she only the Queen of England if she ruled the whole United Kingdom? I didn’t know.

Busembatia is only an hour’s drive from the expat-friendly, tourist-magnet town of Jinja, but it feels far from that world.

“Bye Mzungu!” squeal all the kids.

“Mzungu – it’s that colour that you have,” a man called James explained, slowing his bicycle alongside me to introduce himself. White people have stayed here before, but that doesn’t seem to have dulled the excitement.

Resources feel precious now. Continue reading

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Return

In the Pearl of Africa

In the Pearl of Africa

Back to Kampala: to the hills, the trees, the rust-red earth and the steady flow of motorcycle taxis that keep this city moving. It’s good to be back, and reassuring to find the same sense of ease as two years ago. It’s urban Africa for beginners – unthreatening, unoppressive, walkable. Or #laidbackinthepearlofafrica, as one of the mobile providers puts in in their latest ad campaign.

Reassuring in a way, too, to be semi-prepared for the usual mild irritations: the Rihanna songs blaring from the building next door, the way too large ants in my kitchen, the reliably unreliable electrics and phone connections.

Some stuff has changed. Continue reading

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