Monday 12 November 2012

The things people say. By Bethan.

I don’t write often so I’m sorry that when I do I can’t stop myself!

I felt cooped up.  Even though I had been out to Rukoki Special Needs school in the morning and arranged some very exciting music therapy work for the coming school year from February onwards and had tested my nerve with the diff-lock through green muddy puddles in which I could see no bottom, Samuel somehow made our house seem very small!

“Right!  We’re going for a walk!”  I ordered.  I got out the factor 50 and chased Sam round the house lathering it on his protesting face.  “Go use the potty.”  I said to my newly-potty-trained toddler.  He has been doing so well with very few wee accidents and it is in fact very comical to see him sitting playing quite happily then all of a sudden grab his bottom and shout “ME NEED POO!  QUICK!” and sprint to the bathroom as though he was being chased by a hippo!  Just as we thought we had cracked the potty-training, two incidents occurred today: Firstly the wiff of guilt as a fresh poo lay on Jonah’s play-mat and secondly Samuel squatting on the floor over another pile.  “What happened Sam, why didn’t you use the potty, it’s only two metres away from you.”  “Me fall over, mummy.” Was the reply followed by “me do poo.”  Oh toddlers, you are so very amusing and frustrating in one cute little package!

I digress.

The boys were creamed, Jonah was packed into his carrier and we set off through the gate with red pick-up and nee-nor car.  Our neighbour’s drive made for a perfect “doof” scenario so we sat for a while in the shade while Samuel played out the previous week’s car fiasco.  “Mummy wheel big hole – doof!  Daddy get out help car back on road.”  He narrated to himself as the red pick-up helped the nee-nor car out of a miniature ravine in the dirt driveway.  Toddlers hide no secrets and I was permanently reminded of my little wheel-stuck-down-a-hole transgression.  I was just going into a dream with Jonah hanging off my front in his sling when a man carrying two small jerry-cans greeted me.  “Good evening.” He said.  (It was only 3.30pm but apparently that makes it evening.)  We exchanged pleasantries (at least I did.  Samuel grunted and squawked as is his embarrassing way currently when a Ugandan greets him).  “I am a mountain dweller,”  said the man, matter-of-factly.  “I wish I had a stallion because small boys like to use those mules but I am a mere mountain dweller.”

“It’s okay, really.”  I replied, not quite sure what to do with this information or what the information actually was in the first place.

“The face is like a map of Africa.  The hands can raise hair above the head and that is why Africa has to be so humble.”  He paused as he saw the look on my face trying to catch his drift.  “It is a metaphor.  Are you getting me?”

“Oh yes,” I lied.  He turned as if to go and wished me a nice day.  After a second thought he turned on his heel and said to me “Do you know Jesus?”

“Yes.” I replied.  “I know him very well.”

“Good.  I was taught in school that you people brought us that religion from Europe.”

“Well that’s not strictly true,” I pondered.   “There was a disciple called Philip who was traveling through Ethiopia and spread the Gospel to an Ethiopian man who was then baptised long before anyone in Europe had heard about Christianity.”  I hoped my details were correct.  People who know me know I’m not one for remembering facts!  This information set him wondering and he went off to collect his water in his two small jerry-cans.

I told Samuel that he should rescue his red pick-up once more and then we could continue on our walk.  We had, after all, in half an hour, only reached the neighbour’s drive!  He dutifully unearthed the nee-nor car from under a pile of rubble (with red pick-up’s help of course) and trotted next to me saying “nee-nor car – doof!  Red pick-up help nee-nor car.  Help help help!”  “Yes Sam.”  I replied on auto.

We walked to the digger-park where there are two decrepit diggers and four other types of diggers (sorry can’t be more exact on what types they are despite reading Sam’s digger book to him several times a day).  This is a day-trip in itself as Samuel gets so excited about it and, let’s be fair, there’s not a lot else to do to entertain him!  At the digger park a man greeted me and asked me if I was married.  “Yes” I replied.  “To a mzungu.”  I added that last bit because he had that look in his eye that people get when they are about to say the following: “You should marry an African so that you can have good coloured babies.”  And yes, that is what he said.  I had read correctly!  “Eh!  I’m sorry, but I only want to marry one man and I already have him.  I cannot marry a Ugandan now.”  I knew what was coming next.  “Do you have sisters?”  he asked, in all seriousness.  “No.  I’m Muhindo and last born.”  This was an intrinsic way of saying I have only brothers since Muhindo means a change from one sex to another in the birth order.  “But what of others.  … Surely your father must have siblings and they have family that may help me?”  “I have cousins but they are married.” I lied.  Well he doesn’t have to know, and my female cousins will thank me for not landing them in being the (probably) third concurrent wife of an aging Ugandan man!  He suddenly lost all interest in the conversation and left without even saying goodbye.  I shook my head to myself at the randomness of today’s conversational offerings.

I finally dragged Sammy away from the diggers and we hauled ourselves up the hill in the heat to our house.  You will never guess who was waiting there sitting outside our drive-way with his jerry-cans now full, ready to continue our conversation!  “I was waiting for you to come back.  I have been thinking of this Ethiopian man and it made me realise that God was revealing something to me to tell you.”  Uh-oh I thought.  “What do you think it was about Mary that made her become the mother of Jesus?  You know that girls should grow their hair beyond their knees then when they breathe out the spirits go into cows and they may bear angels or cherubs.  It is Bibilical!”

“Oh?”  Well what else could I say?

… I can’t even go on to describe the direction the conversation took from here but it involved all sorts of fantasies about young virgins giving birth to small cherubim and as I turned into our compound (I had opened the gate to let Sammy in) the teenage boys who were slashing the grass looked at me and burst into laughter.  “Do you know him?”  They taunted.  “Uh, no.  But he is certainly an interesting character!” I responded.  “He is crazy!” they said and almost rolled around on the floor laughing at the conversation I had endured.  Aha.  There indeed is one in every village…

Monday 5 November 2012


It’s been a busy few weeks since our return to Kasese on 15th October.  It was wonderful to have my Dad with us for the first fortnight, and he made himself very useful helping us fix various things around the house and building a tree-house for Sam in our garden.  Thankfully our initial tummy-bugs cleared after the first week or so, and we were able to return to our normal pace.  On his last day in Kasese Dad accompanied me to Kahokya Baptist Church, which we had first visited shortly before we left Uganda.

Getting to Kahokya is quite an adventure, as you drive down towards the equator and then turn and climb up the beautiful road which heads towards the DR Congo.  Long before the border however, we turned off the tarmac road and drove 16km on dirt tracks of ever deteriorating quality and increasing steepness through farms and villages, until we finally reached Kahokya in the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains.  The vision for Kahokya is to install a 65W solar system which will provide the church with light for the evenings, and the capacity to charge multiple mobile-phones during the day, and so earn an income (more details to follow).  During this visit we had good discussions with the Pastor and made all the measurements of the church required to make a detailed wiring plan.  The Pastor then took us back to his home to meet some of his ten children and many grandchildren.  As we left, Dad was presented with a chicken – a great honour for any visitor here!

Uganda is a wonderful place to visit and very hospitable to outsiders.  We’ve had some recent reminders, however, of just how tough life is for so many Ugandans. One of the toddlers who comes to Daycare was badly burned by a cooking fire whilst at home and died after a few days in hospital.  One of the reasons for establishing the daycare was to reduce the prevalence of such tragedies, but of course we only operate during the working week.  The following weekend Daycare was broken into and money stolen from the cashbox, probably as a consequence of Alpha School’s nightguard having recently been killed in town, therefore leaving the school and project site much more vulnerable, until a replacement could be found.

With these sad things in mind, we were particularly keen for our first Graduation of 15 trainees from the tailoring and carpentry courses to be a success on Friday.  Under Bethan’s patient instruction, the women’s co-operative from Central Baptist Church spent two afternoons making and icing a massive graduation cake, while the rest of the committee were busy inviting local leaders, making certificates, buying refreshments and decorating Alpha’s School Hall with beautiful bougainvillea branches (from our garden wall) and “local streamers” (ie rolls of toilet paper!).  Typically, the 2pm ceremony started at gone 3pm and the local politician and his entourage, who was our guest of honour, didn’t turn up until 5.15pm.  However, an extra-long sermon from our Chairman Rev Sitarico, and a couple more songs from Alpha School’s choir padded out this waiting time, and no-one seemed to mind.  Sam mostly entertained himself pushing around some bottle-cap wheels on the end of a long reed-pole, in true African style, and Jonah was passed around for cuddles from almost every woman there, so we were proud and relieved that our two small boys didn’t disrupt the lengthy proceedings.  There were many speeches and presentations in different languages, of varying lengths, but it was pleasing to hear local leaders referring to the skills training project as part of a “new Acholi Quarter”, turning its back on its reputation as a hotbed of crime and despair.  That said, its status as amongst the highest in the country for rates of HIV infection, shows that there is still much to be done here.  One surprising, but very touching event was that the co-operative formed by our first class of tailors and carpenters presented Bethan and I with a matching African dress and shirt that they had made.  We were touched that they wanted to do this for us, and seriously impressed that they fitted us so well without any measurements being taken!  The quality of this shirt and dress are testimony to the skill of our tailoring teacher Zhile Kighoma, and to the hard work of his students.  It was dark by the time the ceremony was complete and the delicious cake had been eaten, but it was a wonderful day, and it was great that Bethan’s Birthday should fall on such a positive occasion!  (We deferred celebrating her Birthday properly until the weekend!).


·         Give thanks that we recovered from our initial illnesses and for my Dad’s successful and safe visit.

·         Give thanks for all the funding, hard-work, skills and prayers which have sustained the Skills-training and Daycare projects through their first year, despite all the challenges in Acholi Quarter.

·         Pray for the trainees who have graduated, for their successful future employment/own businesses, and that the investment that has been made in them will bear fruit for their families and the community as a whole.

·         Pray for the current batch of trainees, and for our staff, that they will be inspired to do even better on this course, and build on the progress already made.

·         Pray for the family of the child from daycare who died from burns, and for all the other families who suffer too often from needless and preventable deaths.