On my way home… gradually

Dear Friends and Family

Yesterday I said a sad goodbye to James and Innocent and all those I have come to love over the last few years. There were many hugs, shaking heads and tears but I know I will be back with them in 13 months time God willing as my friends here say. I have had a wonderful holiday, and I call it a holiday as it has been so different to my usual visits where I spend most of my time teaching at St James. This visit I have been shown parts of Uganda I have never been to, met many new people and spent special times and for longer with my friends.

When I was packing for Uganda I put in several books to read and my husband put lots of music on two Ipods all because we feared I would be bored. I have not read one word or listened to any music as I have been so busy having fun, most of the time! There has been a lot I know you will be interested in hearing about but with lack of free time, power and network my news has built up but I will catch up I promise as I love sharing with you the wonderful place Uganda is and the wonderful people I meet. In fact both power and network are great here in Kampala so I might be making the most of them!

As I write this I am looking over the tops of Kampala city with all the usual city noises, strange to my ears after the silence of Nakakabala. I am staying with Florence and Judith again and also Florence’s very lively and amusing nephew Joshua, who had me dancing to Ugandan music in my night shirt last night! They are both asleep on a mattress beside the comfy bed I’ve been given though a while ago Flo sensed I was awake, got up and made me tea and then went back to sleep! I do get looked after!

I will be here until late Saturday when I fly back to the UK arriving 10 am Sunday. I hope you will order some sunny mild weather for my arrival!

Love to you all

Boxing Day continued…Godfrey’​s place!

I have been promising to go to Godfrey’s home for a few years and this year with no school responsibilities I was determined to do so especially as he wanted me to meet his fiancé Esther and their little boy Adrin. Godfrey was one of Maria Maws children and was at the Kamuli Baptist Church on Sunday. The directions he gave us was taking us through very poor homesteads but then opened up to an area of similar housing but with a smart brick built house at the centre.

I was surprised at first as teachers are very badly paid in Uganda, but I shouldn’t have been as he had been brought up by Maria who had to watch every penny and taught those in her care to work hard and save and that is just what Godfrey has done. The main rooms of the house are almost complete and he will be continuing with the build when he goes back to school in February (no holiday pay here!). Slowly, slowly, brick by brick his house will be finished eventually.

He and his fiancé Esther have had their Introduction, the traditional part of the wedding in Uganda, as I had been to Eric’s Introduction on the 13th December. The legal part of the wedding comes later when the couple or their family can afford it. Ester has just qualified as a Midwife so with two salaries coming in they are planning on getting married when I am out here in February or March 2016. You never know, any of you who take the plunge and come out for the opening of St James may be able to attend the wedding too!

A table was already laid outside in the garden in the shade of a variety of beautiful trees. James was in his element and very excited to speak to Godfrey about the different species. Esther appeared with another relative, placing drinks on the table but saying nothing.

They came back a little later, delivered a full scale meal which was very unexpected, gave us the traditional welcome and then she sat a little away from the rest of us on a mat to eat her meal. 3 year old Adrin also greeted us, ate with his mum and then rushed off to play with his friends many of whom are relatives as this is Godfrey’s family homestead.

Godfrey has invited us back to Kamuli Baptist Church on the 4th as he wants to gather many of Maria’s OB’s and OG’s (old boys and girls!) together for what will be a wonderful reunion and most probably a lively service! I look forward to it!

Just before we left James was given a very handsome cockerel by Godfrey. I have a feeling poor Innocent, the name I gave to the cockerel given to me by Innocents mum, will be for the chop! This new gift joined Alex’s gift in the boot! Though they were kept well apart we could hear some ‘conversation’ going on between the two birds on our way back to St James!

Soon after we got back home I noticed Grace standing quietly outside my door with a package. I had given him some money inside a Christmas card earlier in the morning, when he had thanked me quietly but not exactly enthusiastically and I realised later he was just surprised and humbled by my gift. I invited him in and when I opened the package I found pineapple and two heart shaped lollipops! He had gone out and spent some of his hard earned money on me!

As I have said many times before, the people I have got to know here in the village, might not have much but what they do have they share! Humanity at its best!

Boxing Day and more celebrations!

The room was getting a little stuffy so I moved out to the verander at the front of the house where immediately my chair, table, mat and whatever personal items I wanted were put by my side. I had brought the photo album of Sara and Owen’s wedding as Mike had not seen them yet.

I visited the family during my first week here and was sat on a chair looking over the head of Bosco as he was viewing the photos. He joked with me that he should be on the chair and I on the mat! The women always sit lower than the men and this tradition is still carried out in most homes.

Mum Monica, which is how I refer to her as the boys call me Mum Gerry, spent the whole time cooking. Now and again I went over to speak to her and ask if I could help. One, she doesn’t understand much English, two, she wants to prepare and serve a meal to me and three, I’m sure she doesn’t think Mzungu do cooking and housework! Mind you I wouldn’t have lasted a minute in the heat and smoke of the mud kitchen!

Mike took me behind the home where a pot of matoki was steaming in banana leaves. We walked on to where they grow maize, beans, rice, sweet potatoes, cassava, ground nuts, coffee and of course the massive jack fruit. Unfortunately the maize which is the main ingredient of their diet had not developed properly so they may be short of food in January and February.

I am always reminded of how vulnerable people in countries like Uganda are when their crops fail because of weather or disease. They don’t have the back-up of food banks or handouts! Mike wanted me to go further to see their two cows but the sun was so hot and I had left my hat in the house so we turned back. This village is always hotter than Nakakabala which is much hotter than Jinja and Kampala that have the advantage of the Nile and Lake Victoria and I had my limitations!

Being Christmas I wanted to give them and their close neighbours and friends a bit of a party and as I mentioned earlier I had given Alex money for food. I had given him 80,000 Ugx (£20) to send by Mobile Money to the nearest trading centre where his mum had collected it. This had covered a selection of food including chicken, pork, beef and even a little goat, a real treat for all of them. It also paid for a crate of soda and beers for those who want them, me being one taker!

Chairs and mats were set up under the big jack fruit tree which awarded the deepest shade in the middle of the day and they was a slight breeze blowing from the rice fields at the far end of the family’s land. Nile beer wasn’t available in the village but Eagle was. Eagle is a much stronger lager with a higher percentage alcohol so it went straight to my head! My litre and a half bottles of water were readily available to dilute the beer! Not to actually dilute the beer but to drink alongside it as with the heat of the day the affects would be increased.

One of the girls came and washed the hands of the two tiny tots who then plunged their hands into a shared bowl of rice. We had just settled down to eat when the first clap of thunder was heard. The sky turned a menacing black and the wind was getting up, which I have learnt are sure signs that trouble is ahead. And sure enough big spots of rain which broke the hard packed mud started hammering down getting heavier and heavier! The response was immediate. Even the younger children picked up what they could and rushed to shelter but regardless of our speed all of us got a soaking. It felt really good to me but quite but the others were quite chilled!

Mum Monica and two other ladies went back into the little thatched kitchen where they were cooking a mountain of food! They can usually only afford a very limited diet, basically whatever grows in the garden but I had given Alex money for our Christmas fare and it looked as if she had got a lot for my money, including a crate of soda and a few beers! I am never allowed to help the ladies in the kitchen so I sit around like Lady Muck being waited on hand and foot by the many young family members!

I played with the little ones who were not scared of me and spent time talking to the older brothers finding out what they had been up to since I saw them last year. Mike and Bosco both achieved ‘A’ level and had had a few casual jobs but like many other young people the world over found there was lack of permanent positions. They never give up trying, and between jobs return to the village to help their mum in the fields which she needs asthere is only their young step brother Emma at home now.

Paul, the youngest ‘direct’ brother, is fifteen and will be taking his ‘O’ levels next October. When my friend Godfrey, who I am staying with for a few days over the New Year, found him hungry and alone in his homestead he brought him to his own home in Jinja and contacted us. His eldest brothers had left Paul in the care of neighbours when we had offered to send them back to school but the neighbours couldn’t cope so he was abandoned. My family could not afford to take on more school fees but when I asked my Uganda Email friends, just like you, if anyone could help Paul, one very kind lady Sue offered to sponsor him.

When he started school in 2008 he could not speak English, read or write but was a quick learner and soon was coming near the top of his class. Unfortunately, when I read his latest report card it told a very different story. I do know he has been off for two periods because of eye infections but he is also going through ‘that awkward stage’ as his tutor Benjamin told me when I met up with him recently.

Benjamin is confident that Paul will succeed if he just buckles down, so let’s hope so! Paul is very grateful to his first sponsor Sue and now to Annick, Kim, Angela and my husband who have taken over the sponsorship. He knows we are giving him this chance to get a good education and has promised to work very hard next year.

I will be out in Uganda again in Feb/March 2016 when his results come out so I hope we have something to celebrate!

Boxing Day and more celebrations!

Alex picked up James and I and we headed for his village of Kasozi (pronounced Cassoss) where we were going to have another Christmas with Alex’s family. Also in the van was one of his brothers Mike, who had not been working away and had not been home for some time.

I had contacted him and he jumped at the idea of giving his mum a surprise of turning up for Christmas so he had travelled to Jinja on Christmas Day to join us. I must let those of you who are new to my newsletters have my story about Alex and his family as they have become a big part of my Uganda life over the years!

The traffic was very light until we turned off onto the rough track that leads to Kasozi. There were people and animals everywhere and with the uneven surface Alex had a hard job steering between all the ‘obstacles’! Everyone seemed happy though and my hand ached from waving to each shout of Mzungu! Alex’s mum Monica was waiting outside her compound when we arrived and started laughing and running down towards her home leading the way, clapping her hands.

Alex had to be careful not to run her over! She gave Mike a gentle handshake and hug but her expression showed how happy she was to see him. Such a very different lady to the one I first met and was trying to persuade to come back home and look after her family after she had been abused and chased away by her late husband’s brothers following his death. Now she is a proud, happy and hard working mum to her seven sons and I love going to see her.

The story of this family is another one that I will pass on to my new Uganda E-mailers soon!

On arrival I am always taken into their small living room which is always neat and tidy, I think waiting for its next visitor. But that ends as soon as I arrive with my multitude of luggage! Mum scurries around to bring in mats and move tables nearer to where I sit so that all my belongings can be off the dusty floor. She does this in complete silence her body partially bent in respect for her guest but with a broad smile on her face! Once I am settled she then gives me the formal greeting, down on her knees, both hands holding one of mine and clearly saying her few words of English “You are most welcome Mum Gerry”.

Then formalities over and still kneeling she puts her arms around me for one of the many hugs she will give me during the day, her head turning from one side to the other on my lap muttering in her own language and showing her obvious delight at my being there. James, who had been chatting to the boys, then came in and she gave him the formal greeting too but with a more serious expression and many more words with lots of ‘Hums’ to and fro between them. This ‘humming’ is difficult to explain until you witness it.

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!