Visit to Good Luck Junior School

17/1 Return visit to Good Luck Junior School in Nawantumbi. Marton Primary in Macclesfield had been raising money for mosquito nets and one of the ways their Ethos group thought of was to ‘sell’ hands of friendship which were then given to me to bring out to Uganda. I had given them to  the school when we delivered mosquito nets to all the families of the pupils, and had promised to go back and help them make return hands. Today was the day even after a long day of celebration yesterday, and night(!), yesterday left me exhausted!

We were due at 10 am but William one of Innocents friends still here after the party noticed the back number plate was hanging off which didn’t surprise me, but I’ve learnt not to worry about such minor’ things in Uganda, confidant that my young friends will know what to do which of course they did! We just stopped off at the Nawanyago Iron Works on our way. Two welders busy working on a job, stopped immediately and started working on securing the number plate, soldering it on somewhere! And they didn’t charge! Innocent gave them 5000 (£1) between them ‘for their efforts’ and they were apparently very pleased with that! See photos!

John Baptist, William and Fazie were travelling with us and I noticed to my horror when I looked in the mirror, John and William stood up at the back of the pick-up ‘catching the air’ but I’m relieved to say Fazie, disabled, and the more sensible, sat inside the pick-up however uncomfortable it must be! We eventually made it to the school, ok two hours late, but still had a wonderful welcome.

When we delivered mosquito nets to the school I had given Ibrahim the paper Hands of Friendship made by Marton PS in Macclesfield. I said I would return and help the children make hands to send back and here we were. I say we as not only was there Innocent but also Fazie, John Baptist and William. They had all been at the party and wanted to come and help me! I’m glad they did as organising approx forty children to do the hands with nothing to sit on and an activity strange to them, was no easy task but between Ibrahim, John and William, all teachers, I was able to sit in the doorway of the school office which was the coolest place in the midday heat and just offer any advice needed! 

Ibrahim had told the children they could come to school to meet Madam Gerry again and many did turn up along with a couple of teachers and some interested parents who were very interested in having a go themselves!!!

Hands completed I taught them the Jambo Song and the Hokey Hokey because of which attracted quite a crowd of onlookers!

Before we left I gave Ibrahim a bag of tennis balls and he threw one to the children who soon organised themselves into a great game. I think they are going to love those balls! Thank you Higher Poynton Tennis Club and Fiona who donated them!

Gifts of sugarcane and bananas!!

Little Norman’s Big day

Friday 16/17 January – Just woken, with ‘the day after the night before’ feeling though not due to too many Nile Beers, just from the memories of a wonderful occasion I have never experienced the like of before. I can hear lots of activity outside my window and many still very excited voices probably busy clearing up! I’ll stay here and have my early cuppa as I know I won’t be much use out there!

Getting back to yesterday when I came out of my room after my rest, as I had expected many more people had arrived for the party and everywhere I turned I was the one being greeted ‘Good morning Madam Gerry ‘, How are you Madam Gerry?’ ‘Webalie Madam.’ I was introduced to so many, some who said to me ‘Do you remember me Madam Gerry?’ My reply was mainly an untruthful ‘Oh yes, how are you?’ But to be honest my memory back home in the UK is bad enough these days, but here in Uganda when I might have only met a person once or twice and then with years in between there’s not a chance! But everyone was really nice, friendly and welcoming and only a couple of toddlers looked at my white face in horror and ran away screaming! Even those little ones were happy with me when I handed Haribou sweets round! In fact I was being dragged up to dance by many of these children later on!

It was only 20 minutes before the Priest and Catechist were due to arrive and the Mass begin but I was the only one amongst those who live here and the early arrivals who had been helping with the preparations to be dressed up. Ugandan people have a reputation of being two or more hours late with everything so this wasn’t a surprise to me. Innocent was still fitting up the speakers for the microphone and music, and the cooking was still going on with an increase of pans bubbling away some ‘cooks’ having spread into the cow shed using charcoal stoves!

Then suddenly the laidback atmosphere changed ‘The Priest is here’ a whisper went round. I’m not kidding you, within five minutes 20+ people had changed from their dust covered working clothes to their Sunday best, many in brightly coloured African outfits. Innocent had had a matching outfit made for himself, Betty, Norman and Alex that looked so lovely. These and all the arrangements for this special day had been made in only five days, the invitations, the arrangements with the Catholic Church, the food and cooking pots, the tent, tables, chairs and plates, etc. amazing! And most surprising of all is that Mass started on time, 2.30 precisely!!

Innocent had asked me to sit with him, Betty and Norman, Norman’s God parents under the tent beside the ‘alter’ table but i started to cook! The tent was made of plastic so though it gave shade and shelter from the rain it generated a lot of heat! Innocent also asked me to sing with choir who were sitting there too but I had to retreat to a cooler shady tree. The only hymn I knew was God Be The Glory and was looking forward to singing it and I did but joined in from a distance under the tree!!

Mass was I imagine the same as any Catholic Mass with a bit of humour which did surprise me though I couldn’t tell what in the sermon had made everyone laugh but never mind. I did hear the Mzungu and UK with applause following though. Norman was baptised along with John Baptist’s youngest and the children of two other relatives. Innocent had asked when he invited them if they had young children they wanted baptised too. It was a lovely family time.

After the main service both Innocent, and John Baptist who I have known since I first came to Uganda in 2002, gave a heartwarming speech both in the local language and in English. It had me close to tears. This was followed by some very lively songs by the choir with drum accompaniment and traditional dancing. Innocent proved himself both a good drummer and dancer!

Then priestly robes off, any sign that there had been a Mass gone, the party began! I was asked to go with the Priest and the Catechist, and Innocents father also a church leader, inside for my meal rather than sit with the hoards and it was a bit ‘stuffy’! I’m glad to say though that conversation flowed, in English, and included asking me if I had enjoyed Mass, about my own faith which I’m pleased they seem to listen and accept and, about the party Innocent is planning for my next visit to celebrate 100 years, 70 for me and 30 for him! Sounds good to me! I even got them to agree to make it an English speaking  party! That’s for those who are able as I don’t want to leave out my friends who don’t speak any English!

Outside the food had been transferred from the massive cooking pots to any buckets and large plastic basins available (like the ones we would use in the UK to wash up, only round) and was still being served long after we had finished ours. It was an AMAZING FEAST!

Then the music became a sort of Karaoke but a couple of the ‘artist’ only turned up for that, they weren’t party guests as such. There were some interesting characters and styles!

As darkness fell many left for their journeys home, some from a distance but here the party went on til late with a group of us sitting chatting and the families with loads of young children were happily playing though it must have been well passed their bedtime and I assumed they had still to travel home. I decided to stay up and enjoy a second Nile and wait for them to depart. They didn’t seem to be making any movement to go so, as I was feeling very tired (the Nile probably didn’t help but hey I’m on holiday!!) I said my good nights. Then I realised that no one was going home, they were all waiting for me before they went to bed. There must have been three extra families staying in an already crowded room, though I did learn that the men went and used the ‘lodged’ behind Innocents bar.  And of course, everyone was here to help with the clearing up!

The event, as well as the importance of the baptisms,  and a great fun party, it had been a time of reunion where some relatives had not seen others for years, lots of hugs and chatter. Most importantly it had been a time of healing as, just like families everywhere, this family had disputes that Innocent with his big heart wanted to heal. Of course time will tell but.

Just in case you’re wondering, I did eat pork and it was delicious!!

To do my post without young Norman pressing the wrong buttons I’m sat outside under a sky crowded with stars and I’ve just seen the fireflies. Like shooting stars but literally just in front on me. How I love Uganda!

Preparing for Little Norman’s Christening

Tomorrow is a very special day for Innocent, Betty and most of all Norman. There is to be a Thanksgiving Mass here at their home to Baptise Norman and to give thanks for their home. Innocent also wants this to be a family reunion and between 50 and 100 people are expected! They are travelling from far and wide just to attend this special day.

Plans have gradually been put into place this week first of all with visits to the Priest who was delighted to do this for Innocent as he plays a big part in church life, in particular the youth side and is head of the Youth Choir.

Yesterday the real work started hunting down food and I will let the photos tell the story.

Thank goodness for my friend Godfrey’s pick-up up as we have collected a tent and poles, one hundred chairs and the same onumber of plates. No need for cutlery in Uganda, though I shall probably sneak into the house for a fork as I always make such a mess using fingers only as it’s a full cooked meal!

Innocent and John Baptist have designed the order of service, and guess who got roped into typing it all out? ‘Please Mum G as you’re faster typing than me’ says Innocent! John read out some of the hymns for me to type but much of it is in Luganda so I had to read it carefully as I was typing. My touch typing skills came back quite well I’m pleased to say. Mind you it has been checked and mistakes found several times with the Luganda! The service will last at least an hour and a half so I hope I can keep awake as much of it is in Luganda.

Tonight an extra pair of hands arrived and all the ladies have been sat outside peeling mounds of matoki, a savoury banana which is the basis of every meal in Uganda.

Everyone will be up at 6 tomorrow morning to start the cooking – 15 kg of rice, 10 kg of beef, 5 kg of pork plus ‘soup’ a thin gravy made with the meat and vegetable juices.

Very early, before dawn I was woken by the smoke coming through my window (no glass to shut it out), and the hustle and bustle of the family preparing for today’s event. I didn’t rush up as I’m not adequately ‘qualified’ for most jobs being only a Mzungu!

Suddenly there was lots of excitement around, even more than it was anyway. The boys started pulling the brown dead banana fronds off the trees and rushing too and fro. Not a good idea when the flames from the fires are being whipped up by the wind but danger or caution don’t seem to be in the Ugandan language! Anyway the reason is..…

It’s soooo hot here and with several fires burning I’m sweating like the poor pig must have felt when he knew his time was up!

I went ‘off air’ for an hour as I needed to rest as it’s so hot here and there’s a long day ahead yet. I hate to miss anything (except Piggy being slaughtered!) but I know I will flag later if I don’t be sensible.  So I came into the relative cool of my room to lie down. I think I can hear lots more people arriving so lots of hands to shake when I eventually appear again in my ‘party dress’!

It’s been a hectic but brilliant day and it’s now pouring so I’m sat with many others in the tent enjoying the African music as water builds up on the tent roof in big puddles. I’m waiting for it to suddenly ‘go’ then I won’t need to bathe tonight!!

13/14 January-They would give up the food on their plates in exchange for sanitary pads!!

Another full and interesting day delivering more nets and all the fempads. Neither of them enough and never will be, but to those who receive you are all such a blessing to them as they are both life changing, yes even ‘just ‘ for five reusable sanitary pads!

Today we headed for a little village called Nawantumbi only 20 minutes drive from Nawanyago but deeper inland.  Innocent thought we ought to put some more fuel in the car as, without a fuel gage we have no idea how much we have remaining. FYI There’s no speedometer either! I do love Uganda!! I turned off the ignition like we’re always advised, (though no one does in Uganda!) but then couldn’t turn it on again! The key wouldn’t budge! I fiddled as much as I dare, thinking the flimsy key was likely to break, then handed the problem over to Innocent, as I often do and, yes you’ve guessed it, his fiddling succeeded! I think I’m just too gentle with the old vehicle!

Our journey today soon had us on rough track again but nothing like previous deliveries, thank goodness! We were delivering nets to the homes of all the pupils from a tiny but growing school called Good Luck Junior School. We called on many homes on the way to the school, all extremely poor but their occupants equally friendly and welcoming. If we came across any teenagers we offered them the fempads. Innocent didn’t hesitate to help me explain how they work, panties in hand (bought new from local shop, not a pair of my big knickers that had my lovely friends in stitches the other day!)

I think the day is described better in photos from the newest born baby (3 weeks) to the oldest lady I’ve ever met in Uganda, 100 and still looking after her grandchildren and great grandchildren, so here goes. Hope you enjoy!

By-the-way I’ve been sending most photos of individual net donations out to their sponsors so many won’t be shown here. Thanks to everyone by-the-way. Amazing effort, we’re almost to the 700 nets sponsored this time when I originally only put in an order for 400!

On the school notice board!

If you can’t get what you want try to love what you have.’

It’s the teacher that makes the difference not the classrooms’

The roots of education are too bitter but the fruits are sweet.’

If you want to succeed:-

BELIEVE where others doubt’.

WORK where others refuse.

SAVE where others spend.

STAY where others quit.

And you will win where others lose.’