5 – Friday 22nd September – Brain Trust Nursery and Primary School

Innocent had arranged for me to meet Charles, the Director of Brain Trust Nursery and Primary School, who is a good friend of his. Charles told me a little about his school and I could tell by the way he spoke he really cared about it. I signed the customary visitors book and then it was time to see who I had come to see, the children!

I knew immediately that it was a happy, well run school as soon as we entered the first classrooms. The children stood and greeted me enthusiastically but politely and listened to Charles as he introduced me. What impressed me was that Charles knew every one of their names and each child seemed thrilled as I repeated, or tried to repeat their names. It was a few of the Muslim names I couldn’t get my tongue round!

I visited each class in turn except for P7, at 14 years old they were busy sitting an exam paper preparing for the Uganda National Certificate in November, the most important certificate to obtain.

I promised that I would return next week to do activities with each class and I can’t wait!

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4 – Friday 22nd September – back in my favourite Ugandan home

I know I am in Uganda when I wake up to the gentle sweeping outside my bedroom window, also knowing it is best to stay out of the way until the sweeping is completed otherwise you are likely to get a lung full! I can here the young mother next door already digging in her garden trying to make the most of the rainy season to get new crops planted and her two small children Gaster and Gift playing in the coolness of the early morning. I can hear Innocents pigs telling him it is there time for breakfast too! The day is waking up and I am feeling totally relaxed!

Yesterday was a day of relaxation and getting used to my Ugandan home. Innocent was busy getting in supplies such as charcoal and matoki while the ladies, his mum Judith and a friend Sarah cleaned the house and compound and started to prepare food for the day. They allow me to do very little work while I am here claiming that I need to rest when I come to Uganda! But I do manage to sneak a bit of help in to their amusement – even just sweeping the floor brings laughter on! Today when I saw Sarah preparing the banana fronds for wrapping the matoki and sweet potato for steaming, I just had to insist I had a go. As you see by the photos I was reasonably successful though I did cut into the leaf several times making it useless for the proposed use! I was rather nervous with the sharp knife too as one slip of it would have had my hand off!! The ladies were quite impressed, though its difficult to tell when they chat on in their own language, shaking their heads and with big smiles on their faces!

When I am outside which is most of the time, there is a small but constant stream of people passing the end of the compound and each and every one of them slows their pace waiting to catch my eye and acknowledge them with a wave. Immediately they respond with a smile, then carry on with a lightness in their step! I find the great majority of local people are lovely and welcoming and, they don’t ask me for anything unlike some places I have lived in Uganda. I hope to be meeting some of these children soon as Innocent has arranged for me to visit their school later today. I’m looking forward to it!

 

3 – Wednesday 20th September – Arrived at Innocents and a new experience!!

Though I enjoy visiting my family in Jinja town I always look forward to getting away from the hustle and bustle and to what I call the real Uganda. I shall miss little Selah but no doubt will see her and her mum and dad over the next couple of weeks as we have several outings lined up.

I had been spoilt living with Alex and Hannah and on our way out of Jinja I told Alex I would like to treat myself to some basic wooden shelving as it is killing my back having to get down to floor level all the time, and I wanted to treat myself to a fan as Innocent now has electricity in his home. Alex knew exactly where to go of course and first call was to some young men in Jinja town making furniture in a side alley! It wasn’t too long before Alex was loading two of the units onto the roof of the vehicle helped by several others.

They were secured by several lengths of black ties made from old tyres! I think I made the makers of the shelves very happy by purchasing not only one but two of their creations! Then it was round the corner to one of his old school buddies for the fan which, as I write is keeping me nice and cool!

We dropped Paul off at his boarding school but poor lad wasn’t allowed to register for the term because he had forgotten to bring three brooms which is one of the requirements! So off he went to buy some locally as we continued on towards my next Ugandan home!

As soon as we got to the outskirts of Jinja I felt myself relax and enjoy the ride to Innocents home travelling through countryside of plantations and swamp lands broken by several trading centres where people were going about their lives doing little businesses while looking after their families. I noticed several groups of children heading back from school after their first day of term many dressed in colourful uniforms – bright pink with green collars or purple with orange trim. Soon I would be arriving in my new home and visiting a local school myself. Exciting times!

Innocents’ girlfriend Sara was there to welcome me as Innocent had to go and do some business down at his little bar Wallets Pub, he runs but he was soon back, the vehicle unloaded and my room set up for my stay which includes my quite comfy en suite!

Innocent and I walked down to his bar before the sun went down and intended to be back but the weather caught us out, another big storm with very heavy rain! It didn’t let up so we carefully made our way home, on the motorbike which had been stored at the bar, me hunkering down behind Innocent to keep dry! Was it worth it…..Yes, the Nile Beer was cool and delicious!!

23 When it rains it rains!

It’s the rainy season!

PS I’ve been offline while trying to figure my newly bought Wifi modem out and now can’t quite believe I have Wifi in Uganda! Mind you the signal is not great so I have to send my news when the connection is strong enough!

2 – Tuesday 19th September – Banks, Babes and Bananas!

Most of yesterday was spent in Jinja town with Alex trying to cash my Moneygrams as I had few Ugandan Shillings left from my last visit. It is always slow and over complicated to do any transaction here in Uganda but yesterday was even worse as the systems in two of the banks had gone down and you’re only told of this after you have filled in the forms and waited in the queues for what seemed hours! Eventually I got the money and gave Paul, who had travelled with us, his school fees to pay this terms bill and money to buy his ‘requirements’ for the next ten weeks. His list ranges from shoes to washing soap and loo rolls – they have to provide many basic items. He went off to sort his shopping and Alex and I headed to the supermarket to buy my ‘essentials’ for the stay with Innocent – water (lots!), tea, rice, cooking oil, matches, loo rolls, soap x 2 one for my personal use the other for washing my clothes, curry powder, salt, sugar (for Innocent!!), etc. Alex got my Calor gas cylinder refilled so that I can at least boil water for tea without having to light a wood or charcoal fire!

Next on my list was the MTN mobile phone company as I had decided to try out a Wi-Fi modem to communicate with you all but needed to check out that it would work far away from Jinja town! Fingers crossed I have been advised right. The proof will be in the pudding – you will know I was wrong if you don’t hear from me once I get to Innocent’s place!

All day Alex was on the phone chasing Hannah’s luggage up that should have been delivered earlier in the morning. The man bringing it reported that he hadn’t left

Luggage delivery!

Kampala because he had a flat tyre, didn’t have a spare and, worrying of all had decided to bring the six cases (one’s still missing!) to Jinja by public transport! Any of you who know Africa and other third world countries will know that these vehicles are not the most reliable!! Eventually late in the afternoon Alex got a call saying the man was stood at the side of the road near to the Nile crossing with the cases! Hannah was relieved to see her belongings but still awaits the seventh bag!

Selah still continues to be wide awake and night and fast asleep during the day so we are all doing a little to help Hannah out. I’m doing the least but this morning I had her for a ‘shift’ and as the sun was shining but the heat hadn’t built up we sat outside watching Uncle Paul do his washing in preparation for the start of school tomorrow and got to know a very friendly cockerel who kept following as I walked Selah around!

Selah enjoyed being outside watching his Uncle Paul doing his washing!

The house cockerel kept Selah’s attention too as it scurried around us!

1 – Sunday 17th September sat under my mosquito net writing to you from Jinja on the edge of Lake Victoria

Dear Friends

It was great to arrive ‘home’ after two days on the move. Left home in Poynton before 3 am on Friday and arrived here in Jinja at 5 pm yesterday. I successfully met up with my young friend Hannah and her gorgeous new baby Selah, at Schipol airport. She had already been travelling for 24 hours as she had come from San Diego having gone there to have her baby and visit her family before returning to her fiancé Alex and new home here in Uganda. It was nice for me to have company on the flight to Entebbe especially as I acted as stand-in granny for Selah which was not a chore!

All went well until we came to collect our luggage and ALL of Hannah’s cases were missing, they had never got on the flight! Fortunately she had thought to pack a weeks worth of necessities for Selah and is now awaiting the promised return of her belongings tomorrow. We are not holding our breath though as we know what Uganda promises are like – always good intentions but……..!

Daddy’s first cuddle with his baby daughter! That smile says it all!

The best bit of Friday was seeing daddy Alex meet his eight week old daughter for the first time. It was beautiful, touching, amazing, emotional and that was just me looking on! Alex has not stopped smiling since! It’s been wonderful and often amusing watching him learning to be a dad too, on the practical side, from holding his baby daughter to feeding her to winding her and of course just give her lots of cuddles! I’ve not witnessed him changing a nappy yet – that should be fun! One thing I can say though is he is going to be a hands-on dad and a very willing one at that which is unusual for a Ugandan man!

I’m glad to say I haven’t lost my touch! This photo was taken soon after Selah had received her innoculations in Kampala, including the Yellow Fever which is rampant in Uganda at the moment!

My family with the Kasenke family (and a few add ons!) in 2008. Back row left to right – Alex, Bosco, Mike, Ivan and Robert. Front row – neighbour, the boys one sister Erin with her three children, Godfrey and Paul.

 

To those of you who are new to my ‘adventures’ Alex was my family’s first sponsored child way back in 2008 and unbeknown to us then, he had five brothers and two step brothers! When I first met Alex in 2007, he and his family were in great need of support as their father had died and their mother had been chased from their home by unscrupulous uncles who demanded the homestead!

Over the years with the help of family and friends we have given each of them different degrees of help with their education depending on their wishes and our financial capabilities, plus the love and friendship which has been invaluable both ways! Alex chose to go back to school after a long period away from studying and, even though it was a real struggle for him, he gained both O and A Levels and is now building up a small tour company Enjoy the Pearl Safari’s. His twin brother Robert chose a car mechanic course. Mike also gained O&A levels and is working in a restaurant that has Internet. He also has a full driving licence (unusual for Uganda!) so is available for driving jobs. Bosco followed suit with exams and is now training to be a nurse. Ivan chose not to go to school but has had various jobs, from working with his uncle on a fishing boat on Lake Victoria to having a clothes stall at a local market. Paul is at present studying A levels in Chemistry, Biology and Agriculture. Step brother Godfrey who has been disabled from birth was able to get Uganda Governmenti assistance for his uni studies. We helped him in small ways such as providing him with a laptop and various other equipment when he was setting up a small business post uni. And last but not least is step-brother Emma who is nine years old and attends a village school but one of my ‘jobs’ this visit is to see if we can put him into a better school. I already have one kind lady willing to offer some sponsorship, thank you Helen and son Joshua who writes to Emma, and will be searching out more support  (anyone fancy helping?) once discussions have been had with the family and of course Emma. By-the-way, in 2010 I helped to persuade the boys’ mum Monica to return home and since then she has grown in confidence and is no more being bullied!

Oh, forgot to say that I had a nice surprise when we arrived here at Alex and Hannah’s home as I found Paul here still on his school holidays. He had made all our beds and cooked us a meal! Actually Paul is now sat beside me replying to letters from two of his sponsors Sue and Annick! 

I’ve just made my first cup of tea and had a welcome by the usual ant tribe – all part of the fun of living here! I do object when they crawl up the side of my mug though, there is a limit!! A hen keeps wandering in but doesn’t seem interested in eating the ants!!

Below is a few photos of my Ugandan family in years gone by and last year!

Will be in touch again very soon!