Happy New Year to you all from a very hot Uganda!

Thanks to you all for your Happy New Year messages to James and I. I will pass them on to James next year! I will be back with him tomorrow.

I’m staying with a lovely family in Jinja not far from the Nile and lake Victoria and tonight many families are getting together including mine to see in the New Year.

Should be good but I just hope I can last it out – I’ve been with the two children of my friends at the Nile resort all day teaching them to swim! Beautiful views of the Nile and lots of monkeys which were very amusing to watch – one was turning the poolside shower on!

Lots of love to all of you. Wishing you all the best for 2015, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We will be celebrating three hours before you!

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Part Five – A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVENING!

Livee heard us come through the big metal gates and ran to greet us. I offered him a big Christmas hug which he took full advantage of, hanging on to me for quite a while. He was dressed in the Manchester United football shirt one of you had donated as James had told him that tonight we would all eat together, something that doesn’t happen usually as traditionally the men eat first then the children and ladies. As a special guest I have the honour of eating with the men!

I bathed in the dim light of my head torch hanging from a tree branch overhead. The water was rather chilly to say the least as there had been little sun during the day to warm it in the jerry-can. I wasn’t visited by any chickens or the goat that had a habit of coming to join me when I am sitting on the loo or taking my ‘shower’. They were all settled for the night.

Before I went to bathe I gave Livee some tinsel and a few other decorations to put up in James’ office where we were to have our little Christmas party. His broad smile showed the excitement he was feeling! Fatuma had prepared our meal a few hours earlier but had gone to visit her mother.

The meal was exactly the same food as we have every day with the added ingredient of the chicken I said goodbye to earlier in the day! I was a little worried that the chicken was warm and asked James if he had warmed it up, knowing the perils of partially warmed poultry! He said he hadn’t warmed it, it was still warm because it had been wrapped in banana leaves since being cooked and would be very fine, and it was. It was very tender and delicious!

My lovely daughter Sara had given me a Christmas box to be opened with my friends so Livee and I together did the honour with minutes of excitement and anticipation! In the box was a selection of lovely gifts for me and others to share like the home made gingerbread men and Christmas tree biscuits she had made and had travelled reasonable well considering what they had been through!

Livee was fascinated by the bracelets that light up when you snap them and when he was asked to go outside to do some chore for James we heard a whoop of joy at the brightness of the bangles! When James opened one of the gifts his face showed an astonished look as he took out a £50 note. I too was rather taken aback that Sara should send him such a Christmas present but when he pulled it right out of the envelope we both burst into laughter. It was a napkin of £50 notes! Sara’s husband Owen had tricked many of his friends with this and it had worked with us too!

I also had a few simple gifts for Livee that I had put together from donations from the children in Poynton, a pencil case with crayons and notepad; a ball; a yoyo and some toys from last year’s crackers. I also gave him a card with 10,000 shillings inside it and when he opened it he threw himself on me. I was close to tears with the emotion I felt for this young boy.

When Fatuma returned Livee couldn’t wait to show her his gifts, she laughed at his extreme excitement! When Fatuma had finished her meal I also gave her a card with a little money gift, and a scarf which she really appreciated. Though we cannot communicate in words we have become friends and enjoy some funny misunderstandings!

The four of us sat together laughing and joking and even singing until quite late. I didn’t want the day to end! What a wonderful Christmas Day it had been and as I fell into my bed exhausted I knew I would never forget it! To put the ‘icing on the Christmas cake’ my family called me as I lay under my mosquito net. Though I am not with them they are always in my heart and never far away from my thoughts. I love you Norman, Nicola and Sara!

I hope you have all had a lovely Christmas too, a time to share with your family and loved ones and have enjoyed reading about my ‘alternative’ Christmas with many friends in Uganda and I still have a few celebrations to come!

Love from Gerry

Christmas Day Part Four – A Nile Beer at Mirembe Bar to celebrate Christmas and the wonderful day I have had!

It was getting on to dusk by the time we reached Innocents bar, Mirembe means peace by the way! My Nile was ice cold as I like it; James enjoyed a Mountain Dew soda and Innocent a small Guinness! I got out of my rucksack a well travelled box of mince pies and a box of snacks to have with our Christmas drinks.

They both disappeared swiftly! I gave Innocent a few Christmas gifts, one a tray with a message of friendship printed on it. Innocent enjoys poetry and we have a good friendship so this was an ideal gift for him, and his business! I’ve actually written a newsletter about Innocent which I have yet to send you so you will learn more about him when I do!

James and I spent a ‘happy hour’, quite literally, with the beer very cheap at 3000 Ugx a pint 75p, chatting to Innocent and watching the world go by. Long horned cows passed very close to our table along with herd of goats pulling a young boy along.

They knew their way home! Many people passed us in colourful clothes returning from their Christmas day some getting off and one the taxi buses loaded with produce including live chickens, probably a gift from their relatives. I treated Innocent to a small Guinness, his favourite though he doesn’t normally drink on duty. He was often jumping up to serve customers or see to those who were wanting to play pool.

As dusk stared to fall across the swamp it was time to head home for our last Christmas celebration. Young Livee had spent Christmas alone at St James, looking after the animals. He would not have found this strange as many people here in Uganda don’t know the material side of Christmas, it is just another day. I did feel guilty though but was determined to make it up to him when we had our Christmas meal together.

Christmas Day Part Three – Football Match – Poynton v Wanyange (Nakakabala v Jinja)

It was a colourful sight as usually I only see these people dressed in one colour, mud brown! The balls at St James, gifts from Richmond Rovers were worn out so a search was started for a replacement.

It took a while to find the ball. In the meantime James and I returned to the field and sat at a school desk at the side of the pitch talking to the team and the spectators, many of them children. It was threatening rain and we had no coats but we were lucky it just stayed cloudy, ideal for me out in the open.

Poynton looked very smart in the red and black strip given to them by Poynton Football Club at home! The ones who didn’t have the shirts played bare-chested and of course nearly all were bare footed too! The opposing team wore a mix of colours. I had made up two paper banners one saying ‘POYNTON OYEE’ which is the local footy chant and another saying ‘2 4 6 8 who do we appreciate POYNTON!’

I tried to explain this one but realising most watching couldn’t read or speak English I gave up, though one of the spectators ran and jumped with it in his hands the whole match! I had also brought a few party hooters that my friend Bridget Ferguson had given me but soon regretted it as there was a constant loud hooting throughout the match but everyone was happy including James and I as Poynton won 4-2!

The game was fast and furious with the young men being so athletic! James asked me to give an after match talk and I also Julius the captain 20,000 shillings to treat everyone to a soda. It was another enjoyable experience to add to my achievements!

People were not the only spectators, a few cows dotted the sidelines some with long horns and goats kept wandering onto the pitch but this all added to the atmosphere, for me anyway as I don’t think anyone else noticed!

Christmas Day Part Three – Football Match – Poynton v Wanyange (Nakakabala v Jinja)!

The match postponed from Pork Day 23rd December was to be played today. We had been hoping to visit Innocent beforehand but with two churches and visiting the Grand I called him and said we would come after the game. We had been informed that the venue had been changed to one near the main road as the original one was waterlogged. James asked our driver to slow down as we approached but play hadn’t started apparently no-one had thought to bring a ball!!! So we carried on to St James walking up the lane with many of the families from the village returning after their celebrations.

cont.