Every year at this time I think fondly about a very special Christmas I spent with my Ugandan family in 2009. When I had been invited by Alex to spend Christmas with his family in the village of Kasozi I was a little worried, as at that stage, I had never stayed anywhere where there was no electricity, running water or toilet facilities! I prepared myself very carefully with torches, first aid, mosquito repellent, and bottled water for the duration of my stay amongst other essentials, and even toilet rolls! Alex had gone off to the village the day before to check that ‘Mum Gerry’s room is prepared and the walls have been polished with cow dung’! I couldn’t think of anything at all to say that! But when I got there the room was spotless and had the look of it having been polished! I have learnt since that that cow dung was/is used because it is considered antibacterial and small insects don’t like it!
I even made a Christmas cake to take with us but had to search high and low for dried fruit which I eventually got through the owner of an Asian supermarket in Kamuli town who had to order it in especially! It was the smallest pack of dried fruit I had ever seen and cost me a bomb! This was one of the many lessons I’ve learnt over my years in Uganda, not to expect Uganda to be like England in Africa! Also there was no oven where I was staying, just a microwave. I had to make up a recipe too and there were no measuring scales! I did a practise cake a few days before Christmas which turned out really nice but for some reason the one I made for the special day was rock hard and as there were no more ingredients, that was that!
I watched with amazement as Alex and friend Jerimiah tied all my luggage to the motorbike, wondering how on earth I was going to fit on and how we were going to go the long journey to the village along the dusty rutted roads without mishap! I hadn’t been on a motorbike too many times and with all the added luggage and the distance travelled it was quite a challenge. My legs kept getting cramp so I was sticking them out to allieviate the discomfort. Not a good idea but needs must!
All through the journey people came running out of their homes calling us ‘Mzungu, Mzungu’ and as we got nearer the village many people knew Alex so ‘Alexie, Alexie’ was added to the greeting. (Many villagers add a vowel to those words that end in a consonant.) By the time we got to the homestead my bum and my back ached but we had otherwise made it in one piece! I will let the photos tell you the story of how Christmas day panned out. So please click on the first photo and read the accompanying notes.
My night in the village wasn’t uneventful either! Alex’s little home had two tiny rooms. The room at the back the size of a single bed plus the width of the door and the front room even smaller. And if I remember rightly the only light was from a tiny window from the front, so I made sure I was organised before it got dark! I realised when I had said goodnight to everyone that Alex intended to sleep on a mat in the front room as he had promised my family he would look after me! What I didn’t expect was the extent he would go to, to keep me safe! He brought his motorbike inside and once he had closed the door he propped the bike up against it along with a big boulder and a long metal bar. No one was going to get near Mum Gerry during the night! What I hadn’t informed him of, was that I often needed to go to the toilet during the night and it didn’t seem very long before that was the case! So I had to wake Alex who had to move the bike, the boulder and the iron bar and then he insisted he accompany me to the latrine which was round the back of his mums home and through the sleeping goats! Problem was that I didn’t and still don’t find latrines (long drop toilets) easy to use and knowing Alex was stood outside the door I found it impossible to ‘go’! So off we went back to bed only, and I bet some of you have guessed, I soon needed to ‘go’ again. So we repeated the rigmarole once again with the same results! On our return to the house I begged Alex to leave the door unsecured so I would not have to wake him again. I left it until I was sure he was asleep and crept out of the door, around the back of the house, through the goats who by then weren’t even bothering to move out of my way and into the latrine. Got myself settled and was in the middle of relieving myself when guess what? Yes, Alex had woken and followed me down! I knew this as a torch light was breaking what had been pitch blackness! The next morning nothing was said except for this in a very concerned voice ‘Mum Gerry are you sick’?
Talking about ‘loo issues’ something else happened in the morning that still makes me smile. As I was brushing my teeth near the bush that surrounds the homestead a little boy who didn’t even like my white face the day before came and crouched beside me. I felt pleased that it looked like he was now making friends until he got up leaving a pile of pooh beside me! His big sister, maybe only five years old came up with a big heavy digging hoe, scooped up the pooh and took it around to the latrine. I still smile widely at this memory as I am doing right now!!
Do enjoy the photo story, just click on the first one …….
And of course – Happy Christmas to you all! xxx