Everything comes to an end!
And it’s all over now! A working holiday which everyone will always remember and perhaps be repeated by some in the future. The farewell party was held in the guesthouse – speeches, music and dancing. It’s always just as hard to say goodbye. The experience wasn’t even spoiled by the weather, which wasn’t quite what we’d hoped for. The foundations of the vocational school are nearly finished: the floor still needs to be poured, but that must wait until the concrete piles have hardened properly. We knew that we wouldn’t be able to get that far this time, but the money has been reserved, so as far as we’re concerned the job is as good as done. Tomorrow we leave for Kampala and then back home. Our flight leaves at 23:30 on Friday evening.
Last weekend at the project!
We are visiting families today. At least, that’s what is on the program, but Africa wouldn’t be Africa if programs were stuck to. Pastor Israel had to first conduct some meetings with parents of students from the secondary school, which should have been finished by the afternoon. Not. At least not until four o’clock. Well, never mind: it wasn’t dark yet, so we could carry on with our program. We set off on foot. For those who have never experienced them, these visits are a confrontation. 60 to 70% of the Ugandan population lives in similar circumstances to the families that we went to see – pretty average conditions therefore. But to us it seems like sheer poverty. When we reached our second family – a mother and some children – we had to stop for a while to replace our camera battery. During the brief wait, the reality of the situation crept up on us and became momentarily too much. A tear running down a white nose speaks for itself. It just doesn’t seem possible that you can’t do anything. We continued our walk and arrived at another family. Radiantly happy, the family members came outside one by one to welcome us, enormously gratified that we have honoured them with a visit, as they see it. As if the king had come to call. We brought some sugar and soap etc for the families, which we presented to them as we leave. But then something surprising happened: the father had also got something for us. “That’s really not necessary” we thought, but couldn’t refuse. And we were given a sheep, tethered on a rope. We were at a loss for what we could or should say. The bible says that it’s better to give than to receive, which we could totally confirm at that moment. It was not a great feeling, being given something by people who live at the bottom of society. We talked it over on our way back to the project. With sheep. Saturday is a day off. Which means sleeping in and everyone breakfasting when it suits him or her. In the afternoon there was some shopping and football. In the evening Pastor Israel conducted the close of the day service. He talked about giving and receiving or breathing in and out. Contented, we went to bed.
Today we took our leave of the congregation. We sang a song, “This is the day”, twice: once in Dutch and once in English. After the service, which had included a collection for us, we went home with pineapples, potatoes and lots of other things…… and 100,000 shillings. Once again, not a good feeling. Fortunately it will all flow back into the project again.
No need to worry! Ebola!
Internet has become a medium whereby worry is transmitted faster than the virus itself. I’m talking about the Ebola virus, which has been identified in Uganda. The official report says that it is completely under control. If you realize that since the first case on the 28th July, 176 people are already in quarantine, you can assume that the WHO is on top of it. Nobody who is even suspected of being in contact with the victims is walking around on the street, but is under quarantine in a place 150 km as the crow flies from here. And by the way, if the Ebola virus appears, it’s nearly always in the far west of Uganda or eastern Congo. The most up-to-date equipment that there is available to detect the virus is also here in Uganda. So there really is nothing going on, and certainly no cause for alarm. We’re continuing to enjoy our stay and actually have almost stopped talking about it.
From effort to relaxation!
We got up at 8:30 to continue hauling rocks at the building site. By making a human chain, we threw the stones along from one to the other. We kept this up for two and a half hours. After lunch, some of us went on a jungle trip with Pastor Israel to look at monkeys, and some kept on moving rocks. Rock on, rock on….
The long-awaited safari is scheduled for today. We left at eleven o’clock after having had a wonderful lie-in. The only worry was that Pastor Israel hadn’t yet been able to arrange a hotel or other accommodation for the night. We would have to play it by ear and look around after the boat trip. Thursday The alarm woke us on Thursday morning at 4:20. Got to get up early if you want to spot lions. And at around nine o’clock, three young lions allowed themselves to be photographed in the wild. Although we did have to drive quite a way off the road, which could have resulted in a $150 fine. But everything went well, and the pictures are in. Our bus is very useful.
Let the photos speak for themselves:
Monkeys, washing, building!
Sunday, A typical day here at the project: up at 9:30 and the church starts at 11:00. As usual, lots of song and dance. The weather is so Dutch-like that it’s resulted in colds, sore throats, snotty and blocked noses. In the afternoon we visited Joyce, Pastor Israel’s sister, where we had traditional Ugandan food and managed to drive the car right up to the house. After dinner we enjoyed our rest, played some games and went to bed.
We’re helping again on the building site, while a group are going on a jungle trip, which mainly involves seeing monkeys. This time was no exception, and by looking really hard, we spotted some. It was a bumpy ride, but well worth it. Whenever we stopped, anybody would have thought we were the monkeys, with all the attention we got.
One week on!
Friday, Today we plan to visit a market where food produce is sold, some of which has been grown at a school. In the morning we slept in first because it is after all a (work) HOLIDAY. Pastor Israel came over at lunchtime with the message that we had been invited to the funeral of an old man whose grandchildren go to school at the project. So we changed our plan. We arrived at the funeral, where certainly more than 500 people were in attendance. One of the grandchildren talked about his granddad and his life, in the local language. The statistics are as follows: the man was born in 1890 and so was 122 years old. He had 31 children from 3 wives. An MP (Member of Parliament) was also present, who said in his speech that it was easier to get 10 MP’s than 10 white people (us, in other words). White folk are evidently that important. We had put some money in an envelope towards the costs. It wasn’t a sad service, but lots of speeches. Pffffffff…… After the service we had to stay to eat, of course (local food not our favourite). And then off to the market. We were the first white people who had ever been there, and we were quickly surrounded by a crowd of a hundred-odd people everywhere we went. Every now and then, older folk chased the children away from us. With loud shouts and screams they flew off in all directions whenever one of the grown-ups set after them with a stick. We bought some chickens and made a bid on three goats. That last purchase didn’t appear to go ahead, although the seller regretted it afterwards and followed Pastor Israel to agree to our price after all. We went home feeling very pleased with ourselves.
Today we went to buy clothes: dresses for the ladies, and the gentlemen were measured up for suits. This took quite some time, of course, and Nathalie will help us out and keep an eye on developments for us over the coming days. After having a bite to eat we did some shopping and let Pastor Israel give the Toyota an oil change. Contented but tired after the drive (which gave the Walibi rollercoasters a run for their money), we arrived back home again.
Tuesday and Wednesday we continued building, but also planned some activities with the students. There will have to be a lot of digging to prepare for the pillars that will support the 1st floor. A larger square had to be dug out about every three metres along the trench where the digger couldn’t reach. All that digging resulted in blisters. During some of the breaks, so many of them had to be pricked open, it was like a scene from the four-day hiking event in Nijmegen.
Today was also laundry day. The first lot of concrete reinforcement was put in for the piles.
When we woke up we saw that the builders were preparing the concrete: they had made a sand-cement mixture on the floor bed and were adding stones before mixing in water to make concrete. It was a big volume and at least six men were needed to handle it all. We had a debate today with some of the older school students, the subject being that science and technology cause more damage than they do good. Although the students didn’t agree with it themselves, they were expected to defend it. Fun to be part of it. In the afternoon we went shopping in Mbarara. We urgently needed to buy some groceries like tea, salt, sugar, fruit and soft drinks. By the time we got back to the project it was 8 o’clock.
Sunday evening and then…. Monday building day!
At dinnertime on Sunday evening, Linda (du Buisson) felt something in her hair and pulled out a wasp. And what do wasps do when you grab them? Exactly: sting. “ A wasp just stung me! A wasp just stung me!” she shouted. Grace got the stinger out, but the damage was already done. We got her thumb soaking in hot water with bicarbonate of soda and after a few hours the worst of the pain had happily gone away. In the evening we were treated to a performance by the secondary school children: fantastic, there was a lot of dancing and especially the traditional dancing was super. Such a wonderful feeling for rhythm, it was a great show. Tomorrow it will be our turn with our film about how we live in the Netherlands. Monday building day! It’s one of the reasons we’re here. So today we’re going to make a start on the foundations for the vocational school. Kaleb, the construction engineer, was already at the building site with some workers, busy setting out lines where the trench will be dug for the foundation beams. It took a while to establish squared-up guidelines for the building’s footprint, which will be at least 30 by 9.4 metres, but by using the good old 3,4,5 rule we eventually rigged up various strings. Uncle Ben in the digger and everybody else finishing off the trench. By the end of the day we had already dug 160 metres of trench, including the interior walls. The trench was almost two metres deep at one end and 60cm wide all around. That came to more than 100 cubic metres of shifted earth. Our presentation in the evening was apparently a success, although it’s always difficult to assess the audience’s response, so we’re hoping to hear what they thought of it in the coming days. Pastor Israel is hoping that it will motivate the students to make something of their lives. He said that the film, combined with our help on the project shows that as well as enjoying luxuries we in the Netherlands are also used to working hard.
We partly continued work on the building site and partly entertained the children with stuff that we’d brought with us, like balloons and paper for folding.
Somehow we managed to bring our Dutch weather with us: yesterday a big rainstorm, and the rest of the time the sun has been shy. It’s actually not too bad for digging: we sweat anyway because it’s nonetheless certainly not cold. bijkomen!
Now for some first impressions from the crew (always fun):
Linda O- impressive!
Evelien- incredibly beautiful.
Linda d B- looks pretty good and the people are nice.
Cornelieke – It’s better than the pictures.
Mieke – Interesting.
Remco – Greener than expected, feel like the rich tourist.
Floris – Familiar.
Eva – Me too, just like I never left.
Mellanie – Unreal and more beautiful than the stories.
Rene – Beautiful and really cool project.
After some reconnaissance visits to the school, the first day was mainly a day for resting and recovering. You don’t realize it, but you have to allow yourself to get used to the rapid nightfall and the altitude – it’s at almost 1800 metres. We occupied ourselves by playing games, reading and chatting etc. We held a welcoming party up at the guesthouse, where we were fed and had some dancing. The Ugandans love it and so do we. In the evening, when everyone thought it must be getting on for 10-ish, the clock read only seven. It must be the early dusk confusing our internal clocks. People read for a bit and then Floris held the close-of-the-day service where we took the time to reflect on listening to each other just as God listens when we pray. Then we are certain that, although there may be no immediate reply, He listens to us. Everyone crawled into bed at half past ten (9:30 Dutch time).
We’re up at around 9:00 and sit down to breakfast at 10:00. Lovely: an egg, toast, we’re being spoiled. And then the church service. It somehow always manages to affect you. few tears are shed here and there. It’s a real experience, even though there’s no liturgy. We’re allowed to introduce ourselves and then sing our song “To the River” along with he church choir, repeating every verse.
We’re up at around 9:00 and sit down to breakfast at 10:00. Lovely: an egg, toast, we’re being spoiled. And then the church service. It somehow always manages to affect you. A few tears are shed here and there. It’s a real experience, even though there’s no liturgy. We’re allowed to introduce ourselves and then sing our song “To the River” along with the church choir, repeating every verse.
After a trip that was longer than we expected or are indeed used to, we nonetheless made it to the project. It took longer because of various setbacks such as changing the money we brought with us. In the lead up to our visit we’d kept an eye on the exchange rate: the economic struggles in Europe, combined with positive reports of oil finds in Uganda, meant that the Euro rate had fallen against the Ugandan shilling. The bank’s rate was going to be less than 2,900 UGX per Euro. Pastor Israel informed us that we could get 100 shillings more per Euro in a cash exchange. So we took the 22,000 Euros in cash with us and got an even better deal: 115 shillings more per Euro, giving 2.5 million shillings more on the total exchange. But it took some time. Not only did the money transaction take longer than expected, but the trip to Kampala, too. We decided to let Ben and Pastor Israel take care of it while the group stayed in the hotel in Entebbe. The traffic chaos in Kampala and not having a sufficient supply of shillings slowed everything down. Ben and Pastor Israel finally got back to the hotel at 13:30 and decided to first eat. We had to wait a while for that as well. That’s how things happen in Africa, and just one more reason to take the popular T-shirt slogan seriously: “No hurry in Africa!” At 15:30 we finally left the Hotel in Entebbe and headed to the project for a 6 hour trip. Pastor Israel drove the bus and Ben drove the Toyota Hilux. On the way we bought a fish that, as is customary, is transported on the car grille. We like to adapt to local customs, so we fixed the fish neatly to the grille. But wrapped in a plastic bag (typically European). We stopped when it got dark for some delicious corn-on-the-cob, sitting and nibbling for a half an hour. We arrived safe and sound at the project at around 22:00 after driving for over 3 hours in the dark. We couldn’t tell the difference between our suitcases because they were all, equally, covered in dust. But a wipe with a cloth did wonders. After having given everyone a hearty welcome it was high time to find our beds. We agreed to not breakfast too early and get a good rest.