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Locomotion commotion

Apr 5 • 1745 views • 2 Comments on Locomotion commotion Africa, Diary of a Muzungu, East Africa, Kampala, Lake Victoria, Travel, Uganda, Volunteering

Thanks for all the emails and sorry if I haven’t replied yet. I will! I write this blog offline but it’s still taking time to download and reply to individual emails and I’m a bit behind this week after submitting my first proposal. Worked on it most of last w/end and two very late nights / early mornings. It’s for a wee $40k! but couldn’t help but make the same amount of effort as I did with the big Laing PFI bids. UCF directors and Trustees over the moon with what we submitted so fingers crossed we get the grant …

There was a big commotion outside the compound this week. I’d been on the phone to Ma and we heard the train go past and then a big BANG!

Simpson and I ran and grabbed the home-made ladder to look over the hedge ….We couldn’t work out what had happened for ages, there was just a general hum of hundreds of voices, mostly in the dark of course. You could sense the excitement as the whole of Namuwongo descended to collect free charcoal after the train had run into a lorry packed full of it (we heard the next day). I asked about casualties but didn’t get an answer – read into that what you will …

The railway line is 50 metres from the house. A train thundered past on my first night here, so you can imagine what I was thinking!! “No wonder they’ve moved me here, the rent must be cheap if that thing’s going past every night, how am I ever going to sleep etc etc…” But luckily trains only pass once a week or so, carrying freight from ships docked in Lake Victoria. It’s actually quite exciting now I know it’s only once a week! And I wonder where it’s come in from – possibly Tanzania or Kenya – and suddenly it seems exotic.

Here you can see how close I live to the railway http://maps.google.com/maps?sourceid=navclient&rlz=1T4TSHB_enUG280UG320&q=google%20earth&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wl You can even see my house if you view this in Google Earth …

It was raining really hard this morning so I went back to sleep to the sound of it, snug under my blanket (what a treat! There’s the very slightest chill in the air!) Time to make tea for me and Simpson and not only have I missed the spout of the kettle but filled it with water straight from the tap. A no no but luckily I realised what I’d done. Haven’t had any stomach upsets yet but you never know. Occasionally they add chlorine to the water supply and it comes out of the tap cloudy and you get a grey scum appear when you boil the water. We try and avoid drinking it then.
We looked out on the porch and Simpson says there’s a lot of work for him to do this morning. At first sight there are 100s of leaves to sweep. But actually they’re the elongated wings of 100s of insects – some kind of flying ant, a delicacy enjoyed by the Baganda and Acholi tribes. The insects have been attracted by the security light. Simpson wanted to sweep them up right away but I asked him to wait so the Greenbul (bird like a Flycatcher) can eat his fill. He wanted to put them in a bin liner but I’ve asked him to put them in a pile under the tree “so we don’t deprive the bird of his natural food.” (He’s getting used to my funny mzungu ways!)

Now the sun’s come out, the ants are all running off, leaving their wings behind!
More rain will mean more moz of course. “You have to respect their intelligence though don’t you?” I say and Simpson adds “they breed just like African families!” Uganda has the 3rd highest birth rate in the world – he is child number 8 out of 15, and that is very common. Saw an ad for a contraceptive pill on TV last night “for mothers who are breast feeding.” It featured a happy young couple playing with a baby. The line was “enjoy bonding with your baby as a couple, without having to worry about the other children.” So it was promoting quality time (smaller families) + breast feeding as best way of feeding babies. But how do people afford it? Do they offer free contraception here? They should but would be amazed if they do.

Last week someone offered me his daughter as I walked down the road. I laughed in reply but actually it made me quite angry. How did that little girl feel? And why have so many children if you can’t afford to look after them? It’s funny, I’ve made excuses for people doing this back home but here it gets to me. I suppose it’s on a much grander scale here and many of the kids are absolutely filthy (i.e. uncared for).

Patrick says there’s never been a lack of food here. Portions in restaurants everywhere are certainly enormous. But malnourishment is still common, as we saw yesterday on our visit to the famous Mulago Hospital (subject of a BBC documentary a few months ago). It’s a massive, creaking place. My friend Isla is a Speech Therapist there and has seen some shocking sights. But our visit was to the Healthy Baby clinic to hand out toys to the kids, hear more about the clinic and suggest improvements such as cheering up the place, installing a playground for example. Not sure whether I’m going to get involved or not, haven’t been here long enough to decide which personal projects I’d like to support, but will happily collect any unwanted toys or kids’ clothes on my trip home (next year?) if anyone has any they no longer need.

The clinic provides a free meal for the carer too (usually a woman but not always the mother), to encourage them to stay the weeks with the child. This gives the clinic the opportunity to educate them on nutrition. (More about that another time).

Pictured is a little girl with a doll we’d just given her. We were encouraged to take photos.

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2 Responses to Locomotion commotion

  1. […] right next to the railway was a big part of the enjoyment of living in Namuwongo. The train would whistle as it approached, passing 2 metres from the other side of our compound wall,…. (Well, mostly they would make it, […]

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