Uganda

This past week Pete and I had the privilege of traveling to Uganda to look at many of our water projects there. Because of the generosity of our Board we were able to fly the 40 minutes and not the overnight bus which takes about 14 hours. Liz stayed behind because she was heading to Australia, so there was a lot to do to organise two totally different trips.

Downtown Gulu

Downtown Gulu

Going to Uganda was great for us. It’s been a long 5 months adjusting to life in Kenya and as they say, a change is as good as a holiday.

A holiday it certainly wasn’t.

Our vehicle to get around Northern Uganda - much needed!

Our vehicle to get around Northern Uganda – much needed!

We traveled long hours with our driver Rodney, who had been kidnapped when he was a child by LRA soldiers. We got to meet his dad as we drove around Northern Uganda.

Uganda and Kenya are like chalk and cheese in many ways.

A deep bore well about an hours' drive from Kitgum

A deep bore well about an hours’ drive from Kitgum

The roads are way better in Uganda than in Kenya. However, Kenya is more developed economically. In Kenya you can get around $400 out of an ATM, in Uganda it’s only just over $100. Imagine when you have to pay everything in cash how many international bank fees you’re paying!

And Uganda is about 5 degrees warmer than where we live in Nairobi. One of those places that as soon as you’ve had a shower you are bathed in sweat again and ask yourself ‘Why did I bother?’

One of the many memorials around Northern Uganda

One of the many memorials around Northern Uganda

Alice from Pader stirring lunch for hundreds of girls

Alice from Pader stirring lunch for hundreds of girls

There was a real downside to going to Uganda and that was we had to rush from one place to another. Next time I would love to spend time just taking photos, especially of the Northern Ugandans. Of all the people I’ve seen in the world, I really love their faces. Their eyes are deep, they say everything just by looking at you. You see their pain, their history, their hopes.

Got to love the kids!

Got to love the kids!

For the first time we weren’t staying in $10 a night guest houses or hotels. Not that we went overboard but it was great to get a decent nights sleep without paperthin walls. Mind you, I told a friend up north that $80 was the most we were prepared to pay for a room, so he put us in a $15 place. It had no water or a door on the toilet, but it did have electricity, which was surprising.

Alice and I under the tree she started her work in Pader

Alice and I under the tree she started her work in Pader

We visited hospitals, schools, churches and remote communities. While I was there 18 months ago, it’s been 4 years for Pete, so he was really excited about visiting the friends we had made.

Pete and a mate at the school opening at Kituso

Pete and a mate at the school opening at Kituso

In Kampala at the opening of the water project

In Kampala at the opening of the water project

Seeing all of your hard work of organising water projects is a real highlight, but more so, meeting the people whose lives are changed forever. That’s why we are here in Africa, to change lives.

Uganda was great, but now it’s time to get back to work.

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The Challenges of Living in the Third World

I hate the wording ‘Third World’ it seems so second handy and demeaning. I’ve been living and working in Kenya for 5 months. While it’s early days yet, there is no time for putting one’s feet up and enjoying the scenery.

There are some big challenges here though:

1. Language

Just when you think you start understanding Kiswahili, you try and enter a conversation and you’re blocked out. On top of that there’s the different languages in different areas and then the slang called ‘sheng’ which is the street language in Nairobi. Having lessons is like going back to school. I’ve taught English as a second language for years, now the teacher has become the student.

2. Electricity

Or the lack of it. When we travel to the farm, an hour away, it’s in a rural setting. You expect the power to go off there and brace yourself for heating up water on the gas stove and use the headlamp to get around. You don’t expect to be in the city and have no power for days on end. So, you have to compensate by using solar, making sure everything is charged when there is power and know where the torch is. I’ve got my laptop down to 2% just before the power returned.

It’s amazing how having lights and access to electricity can change your mood. Sure, we have a TV and an office on solar power but to be able to work in the light makes you feel better.

3. Internet

Where we are living there is wireless internet but for no apparent reason it just stops working. This usually happens just when you urgently need to find something on the web. I’ve resorted to getting a plugin modem that I can use anywhere. $2.50 of internet can last for weeks, so it’s rather handy.

It’s amazing that you can be in the middle of nowhere, and you run across (as opposed to over) a Masai warrior dressed in traditional clothes and there he is on his phone Tweeting about events in the field. I’m off to Uganda next week so here’s hoping I have no hassles in getting the internet there. Not that I;m addicted to the internet but without it I can’t work.

4. Clothes

The clothes shops in the malls are so expensive, I’m talking about label price for something that isn’t. There are plenty of places you can buy cheap second hand clothes but I don’t have the time nor the patience to go hunting for them. Pete refuses to buy second hand, it’s below him. Import duty here can be between 75 – 125%, uping the prices hugely. We bought enough clothes to last us a year but now I realise that most of my tee shirts are black. I’m not a floral person (I do like flowers) and a lot of clothes have flowers on them. I hope to head to Sydney in February next year and I sure will be shopping there.

5. Being Forgotten

We made the choice to come to Kenya. Nobody forced us, no one twisted our arms, we came of our own free will. I totally understand that everyone’s lives are busy but it’s frustrating when your old friends don’t keep in touch with us. It is true that when you are out of sight, you’re out of mind. In our online world no one has an excuse to not keep in touch. I remember the CEO of Compassion years ago saying that the thing that breaks his heart is that so many sponsors don’t write to the children. I totally understand this. Not that I’m expecting a letter but the odd SMS, email, hi on Facebook goes a long way. I work about 90 hours a week and sometimes the work is overwhelming. Then, I get an SMS from a friend just to say hello and it encourages me to go on.

To me, relationships are the most important asset we have in life.

All the other things like terrible roads, limited money, distance from family, long hours and still not being in our own home pale in comparison to the opportunity we have in impacting the lives of young people here.

Challenges are here not to break us but to make us into better people.

Well, that’s what I keep telling myself anyway!

Me and the girls

Me and the girls