Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Blog changes

I am going to have this blog printed as a book and have had to replace the Uganda-dead-slow-internet-uploadable-sized photos with the originals so they would be print quality.  Some of the originals are missing, so there are some changes in the blog in case anyone is wondering.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Last post

This is my last post on this blog. Our student that we co-sponsor, Doreen, is doing well in her classes. News of her progress will be on my Scotland blog. All further posts will be here:


Tuesday, 6 October 2009


After tearful goodbyes in Kampala and at the airport, we took the long journey home to Scotland.

We've been touring the Inverness area with Danny's daughter and her husband, and getting used to the drastic drop in temperature.

Here's a few pics I took yesterday and I'll continue blogging here:
Photos: Urquhart Castle, village of Drumnadrochit, Caledonian Canal in Fort Augustus

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Bye Uganda....turebane bwanyima (see ya later)

In about 18 hours we will say goodbye to Uganda and board our flight home to Scotland via Dubai. Last Friday we left the campus and said farewell to everyone. We have spent our last six nights in Uganda at the hotel where we spent our very first night in Uganda - the International Landmark in Muyenga, Kampala. We've stayed at this hotel so many times over the two years that the staff know us well and we are greeted with hugs when we arrive.

In preparing to leave here I am reminded of an incident at the Dubai Airport in May 2008 when returning from a visit with my family in the US. We were walking to our gate for the Entebbe flight and I heard the announcement for the flight to Glasgow (our home airport). I was overwhelmed by homesickness and nearly burst into tears. I wanted to board that flight, not the one to Entebbe. However, I did recover from the ensuing bout of homesickness and once we hit the one year mark in October I knew I'd be fine.

It's difficult to summarize two years of living in this small country in East Africa as we've had experiences we'd never imagined in the UK or the US. I will certainly never forget this country or the lovely people we've met. Has it made me realize how fortunate and spoiled I am? You bet! Will I remember not to take all the conveniences of the western world for granted? I hope so. Has it made me realize what is/should be important - more than 'stuff'? Yes! There will be reminders of our time in Uganda all over our house after we get home - crafts, carvings, masks, wall hangings, photos, etc. I imagine it will feel strange for a while to be surrounded by a very white Scottish population. It will feel strange not to be treated as a celebrity. And it will be bloody cold and wet!!

Looking back....as prepared as I thought I was, I suffered from serious culture shock when we first arrived and it took me quite a while to adjust and become comfortable. Danny had no problem adjusting at all except for figuring out the money. I thought I would never understand the accents!

Before we left Scotland for Uganda I scoured the internet for information on living in Uganda and especially for blogs by previous/current volunteers. I quickly realized after arriving here that the people who advised me that I wouldn't truly know what it was like until I was actually living here were spot on!

One of my favourite things about living in Uganda is that everywhere we go small children wave, jump and down with excitement and yell ‘mzungu, how are you?’ when they see us drive or walk past. Being a ‘celebrity’ and centre of attention most everywhere we go was intimidating at first, but I soon learned to enjoy it. It’s quite strange to be seen as someone special, a celebrity, just by virtue of something you have absolutely no choice in – being white. In some areas frequented by tourists we encounter kids with their hands out shouting ‘give me money’, which we refuse to do as it turns them into beggars. It’s unfortunate that many tourists don’t realize what they are doing when they give the children gifts or money. If the children do something to earn money, such as performing for us, that’s an entirely different matter.

Making a difference….a well worn out phrase….
We didn’t come here to save the country, but have we ‘made a difference’? Danny has made quite a lot of differences in many peoples’ lives and I’ve made a few as well. We’ve made some very good friends and we will miss them greatly.

By being retired and having an income aside from the meagre living allowance provided, we’ve made this 2 years much more enjoyable. By having a car we’ve had the freedom to explore the country, enjoying several of the nice lodges and national parks on many occasions. Mobile internet also helped tremendously to keep us connected to family and friends. We’ve been able to be very generous with a select number of Ugandans, but wished we could help even more of them.

Would I do this again?
I don’t regret coming to Uganda at all, not for a second. Knowing what I know now I would do this again. But two years away from home is enough. I would not agree to going on another two-year placement, although I’d quickly agree to a 3-month placement and might be persuaded to go on a 6-month placement.

We intend to visit Uganda in the future and hope to return to see our co-sponsored student, Doreen, graduate from university. We will also visit with other friends we've made here including dear friends Tugume, Mushabe, Ayebaze, Lwamafa, Evodio and their families, and others.

We have enjoyed living on the Bishop Stuart campus and always felt like a part of the community. The staff and their families are wonderful and we will miss them greatly. The campus is safe and in a lovely location. The electrical and water problems and frequent interruptions were simply part of a package that any volunteer can expect. I was always very thankful that we had a proper flushing toilet instead of having to use a long drop outside.

I willingly admit though that we enjoyed the campus much more when Lwamafa Javan was the principal (during our first year). The college was run more effectively, smoothly, and predictably, the atmosphere was happier and staff morale higher when he was there. Javan cared about the students, staff and college and would always listen to suggestions and opinions. We miss him as does everybody.

Uganda's future
I have many suggestions on what Uganda needs to do in order to make much more rapid progress, but since there are already plenty of people who do just that, I've refrained from putting in my 2 shillings except to say corruption and the acceptance of corruption as a fact of life in so many areas including government, roads departments, police, education, businesses, etc. is the main problem.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Last days

Lwamafa, college principal for our first year, and his wife Jovuline
 Seems like everyone has invited us for a goodbye meal and we've enjoyed them all immensely. We had our leaving do/party at the college yesterday and I felt quite sad to say goodbye. Danny wore his kilt which was cause for many giggles. He gave a lovely speech as well.
I was actually surprised at how sad I felt when I locked the door to our house for the last time. It was especially sad to say goodbye to many of the staff and their families. We will miss them all so very much but will be in touch by email, by my blog and by text messages. Many were nearly in tears when saying goodbye to us and I had to restrain myself from crying myself - which worked except for one time. Danny was also very sad to leave the students, especially the 2nd years.

A second year student

Some second year students prepare to go on teaching practice

Second year students

Some of the friends who gave us a going away dinner

Our dear friend Mushabe

Child of friends

After our leaving do

Monday, 14 September 2009

Mini-portrait of 2 years in Uganda

new arrivals.....

  • trying to figure out how to phone the VSO office when nobody met us at the airport
  • arriving at our campus house to find it had 2 beds, a table and chairs and nothing else! having to completely furnish the house.
  • waking up every morning for a week or two hoping that when I opened my eyes I'd be in our lovely blue bedroom in Scotland
  • trying to figure out the money. So many zeros!! Then referring to the money as.... 1,000 shs is a single, 5,000 shs is a fiver, etc.
  • learning how to bargain
  • trying to figure out how much we should pay for our household furnishings and trying not to pay the very highly-inflated mzungu prices
  • most people not understanding my accent--me not understanding theirs
  • being the centre of attention EVERYWHERE
  • trying matooke, posho, beans, karo and liking them
  • seeing just about anything being hauled on the back of a motorbike, including a family of 4
  • roadside coffin shops and the coffin have windows!
  • potholes the size of a childs swimming pool
  • fearing for my life every time we were on the road!
  • unreliable power, no guarantee of running water
  • extremely poor quality goods - rejects from China.
settling in....
  • learning the local language and the delighted reactions of Ugandans
  • feeling my severe culture shock ease considerably after meeting up with other volunteers at our first regional cluster meeting
  • first trip to Garden City Mall in Kampala - wow. Stuff!!!
  • finally figuring out the best hand laundry washing system
  • finally figuring out the best system for doing dishes when water was off in kitchen
  • figuring out how mozzies got in house
  • getting comfy sofa and big chairs after 5 months of crappy and uncomfortable furniture
  • our first meal at a Ugandan's farm and discovering that the children read Shakespeare and classic literature -- an atypical Ugandan family -- reading for pleasure is not common
  • eating goat (usually good), grasshoppers (emmm...yuck)
  • meeting all kinds of fellow volunteers--from wonderful and lovely and witty to totally obnoxious and argumentative and everything in between
  • trying to explain an Ipod, washing machine, lawnmower, central heating
  • the number of times we've been asked why we have so few children
  • explaining why I don't need to treat my hair--being told I've been blessed by God with such hair
  • trying to teach someone how to use a mouse, what a desktop/folder/menu is, etc
  • trying to answer the question 'what is the staple food in your country' to people that eat the same thing day after day after year after year
  • explaining snow
  • not being very surprised at how corruption taints so many facets of daily life
  • saying goodbye to volunteers who've become our friends and are quitting and going home early
  • trying to convince Ugandans that all westerners are not rich
  • trying to get used to the almost total lack of timekeeping and punctuality and planning head
memorable or surprising or depressing....
  • watching a Ugandan being amazed by his first time using binoculars
  • red ants crawling inside my shoes and biting the hell out of my feet and legs. screaming bloody murder!
  • lions, elephants, impala, chimps, giraffes, hippos, zebras, etc etc etc.....
  • seeing pics of our former principal in snow in Dublin and him being so excited about it
  • watching college students eating chocolate for the first time
  • coming across a group of kids in raggedy clothes with patchy hair indicating malnutrition
  • hearing our former principal talk excitedly about being in a plane for the first time and how excited he was to look out the window at the ground and how everything looked so tiny
  • a toddler running away screaming and crying when she saw us because whites are scary-looking!
  • finding that Ugandans put their curtains up 'backwards'--pattern facing outside and lining facing inside. getting strange looks when we turned ours around.
  • being surrounded by chimps after they'd killed and were munching on a monkey
  • the poor kids in the villages and having far too many siblings for them all to be fed and educated properly
  • having our families visit and go on safaris with us
  • staying in posh lodges and simple bandas or tents
  • a mouth-watering fillet steak and chocolate mousse at Mweya Lodge
  • the enormous room and claw footed bathtub at Katara Lodge
  • the first time seeing the Great Rift Valley at Kingfisher Lodge
  • having a serious drinking session at Lake Mburo with Nikki and Hillary and feeling intoxicated whilst on boat trip on the lake
  • barefoot kids running on gravel and dirt
  • barefoot kids walking to school in their pink or purple school uniforms
  • people eating foods like rice with their hands
  • people carrying just about anything on their heads
  • being the centre of attention at a wedding
  • all the thumbs up and cheers for Obama
  • amazing people by telling them our ages and them thinking we are really really elderly/aged
  • the college students realizing that Danny was a 'proper' physics teacher
  • the students cheering when Danny went into assembly
  • being surprised at the dirt poor people who have such happy smiles on their faces
  • getting lost in the swamp on a game drive at Lake Mburo and being chased by a water buffalo

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Lions and elephants and warthogs, oh my.....

Tugume, Danny, Merib

During this past weekend we took a Ugandan friend of ours, Tugume, and his wife, Merib, to Lake Mburo National Park. As is typical for Ugandans they had never been to any national park. The fee is only 5,000 shs ($2.50) for a Ugandan as opposed to $20 for a foreign resident and $30 for a foreign visitor. But the reasons most don't visit is transport costs and taking away the chance to earn a days pay.
The couple were amazed by the zebras, waterbuck, hippos, using the camera, water buffalo, the binoculars!, the cost of meals at the restaurant, the baboons, monkeys, etc.

Merib returned home prior to the next part of the trip but Tugume accompanied us along with 4 other volunteers to Ishasha Ntungwe River Camp. We were very lucky on the game drive in the Ishasha section of Queen Elizabeth National Park as we saw 3 tree-climbing lions sleeping in a tree, and further down the road we saw a big lion lying in the grass.
More pics are in my Flickr album - Tugume in the Parks:http://www.flickr.com/photos/anniedanny/sets/72157622181318587

Since we had a 24 hour park pass and we didn't need to return the next morning to attempt to spot the lions, we proceeded to the Mweya section of QENP. We spotted many elephants in various parts of the park as well as many other animals. The Kazinga Channel boat trip didn't have enough spots for all us so 2 volunteers and Tugume went. Tugume had never been in a boat before except for a canoe. He was absolutely thrilled with the 2 hour boat trip as he saw elephants, hippos, large crocodiles, birds, and water buffalo.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

The final month

The college is on term break until September 7th so Danny and I have been taking short holidays the last couple of weeks such as two nights at Kingfisher Lodge overlooking the Rift Valley and three nights at Arcadia Cottages at Lake Bunyonyi.

Lake Bunyonyi

On the way back from Lake Bunyonyi we stopped by to see the former principal of our college, Lwamafa Javan.

Danny and Javan

Yesterday we spent the day at the rural home of a recent Bishop Stuart graduate, Everisto, who graduated with Distinction, the first in several years at BSPTC. As usual, we were treated like royalty by the family and all the extended family arrived to see us. The kids couldn't stop looking at us and I got many good photos of them. I can't imagine what it's like to be a black child who had never seen a white person before. We must look very strange. Sometimes babies and toddler cry when they see us but most warm up to us after a while.

Danny, Evaristo and his parents

Tomorrow we return to Lake Mburo with a Ugandan couple who, like most Ugandans, have never been to any of their national parks.

In July when my brother's family visited we had to cancel a night at Ishasha Ntungwe River Camp due to illness. It was part of the Churchill Safaris package so no refund was possible. We were to go on safari at QENP and hopefully see the tree-climbing lions. The manager has offered us the 3 tents and full meals at no charge, so I have invited 4 volunteers to go with us. We will go on Sunday and hope to see the tree-climbing lions this trip. We did not see any on the trip with Danny's daughter and her husband in February and we've been told it's more likely to spot them during the rainy season which is now.