Hesitant and happy-ish

29 04 2011

We are back inEntebbewhen we were meant to be heading to Mbale with a car full of house acquisitions.  We at least got fabric for curtains but made very little progress today.

I am not a political fundi and do not try to get too involved but here we are impacted by things daily. I do not have a good grasp of the situation but I will try to explain things as I understand them.

Since we have arrived inUgandathere have been protests by the opposition political parties (against the government of Yoweri Museveni, who has just been re-elected as president: he has now been in power for around 25 years). The protests have been directed at the radical increase in prices: the inflation rate is at around 14%. They have taken the form of “Walk to work” protests, with the main opposition leaders walking on a Monday and Thursday. The police have opposed these riots and violence has become more and more common. 

When we drove into Kampala last week Monday we saw places where rioting had taken place just an hour or so before: tyres burned on the roads, signs of glass where car windows had been broken and a few police vans about.  Generally people have been planning travels around the days protests are due to occur.

Kizza Besigye, the main opposition leader, has been arrested twice in the last few weeks, and has suffered pains physically.  He has been shot in the fingers by rubber bullets and when he was arrested yesterday was doused in teargas which has caused his followers to become very resentful.

As a result the riots have continued onto today – which we were not expecting.  We had stopped at a shopping centre betweenEntebbeandKampala, to pick up a few things, intending to stop off inKampalaat the Game shop and then make our way to Mbale.

When we had just left the shops we saw a number of cars parked on a hill and heard that we would not be able to go into Kampala: we looked and saw roads that are usually bustling eerily still and at a closer road there was evidence of protest: there was rubble in the road and people were ducking low, running across the road.  We heard the shots of teargas canisters or rubber bullets and saw smoke rising in a number of places from tyres being burned.  It is useless to try to drive through all of that, so we waited at the shopping centre in the hopes that it would clear soon.

After waiting at least 3 hours we realised that it would not be possible to make it home today:  it is not safe to drive after dark, and there were no guarantees of how long it would take to get out ofKampala, IF we could get out.

So we turned back toEntebbe, seeing that on roads where we were this morning most shops had been closed and locked up (to protect against looting) and a car had been shot at (windows broken, etc). We could have been caught up in that!  There was still a strong police presence.

When I informed a friend that we would not be returning home today she said that there had been rioting in Mbale too – which has been totally peaceful up to now.

I am a little worried: the presidential inauguration is due next week, the levels of violence are increasing and being aroundKampalawhen this is happening is making me feel a little uncomfortable.  PLEASE pray for peace and God’s perfect will for the leadership of this country. 

The upside was that I could watch the royal wedding, which would not have been possible if we were travelling!  It was almost surreal, watching Sky TV in a Ugandan bar/ club with one or two other white faces about and knowing that there was chaos taking place about 2 km away.  But Katherine looked so pretty, all the pomp was fun and not sitting stuck in a car for hours really was a relief!

Hopefully the next time I post will be from our house!


A few pictures, and happiness

28 04 2011

Deon at Rainforest Lodge lounge.

View of lounge in our new house – BEFORE cleaning

This week has been quite positive so far:  We have got a house, which is being painted and cleaned and will hopefully be ready to move into by Saturday! (Photos with a bit of detail will follow shortly).

As I write this I am looking out the window of the hotel room inEntebbe: fish eagles calling and sitting a few trees away; the gorgeousLake Victoria glistening about 300 meters away and huge trees shaking off the rain of the night just outside the windows. Entebbe is a lovely town and we so enjoy being here! The Geology offices are within easy walking distance of the hotel, so it really IS necessary to be here!

We stopped off at the Rainforest Lodge in Mabira forest – what a peaceful atmosphere! The food was great and watching hundreds of butterflies pass by was a lovely way to wait for the next course.

The last few days have been quite positive (which is needed – Deon’s work is not easy) but we know we are gearing up for the challenge of shifting, fixing up our farm-garden and  other realities ofUganda.

Easter Sunday at the pool in Mbale

25 04 2011

(Acknowledgments to Courtemanche for the title!)

The above could be summed up: colourful and chaotic!  But I am sure you long for a little more than that in the blog, so I will elaborate on the events of the weekend and what our first Easter here was like.

We realised very quickly that perhaps the safest place to be this weekend would NOT be at the hotel, and when we were here it was mostly within the confines of our room. Even now as I write there is a bunch of children rushing about, no parent in sight, and enjoying the freedom of a large hotel at their fancy. (favourite activities:  trying out the hand-dryer in bathroom just below our room, ranting from the balcony above our room, impersonating elephant migrations through the corridors outside our room – all with narry a parent in range…)

There has been a large sound system and live reggae band at the hotel throughout the weekend with large crowds attracted to the shows. Deon has shivered regularly at how the equipment was set up, the distortions, the lack of vocal tightness, and their performance-which-seems-far-more-like-rehearsal most of the time.  The crowds have not minded much, though! The pool has been surrounded by large crowds, Nile Beer in hand, swaying to the music. There is a little kiddies pool, about 5x5m, which has been filled with little bodies at all times, enjoying the 106cm long slide which plops into the shallow waters… I try not to be around too long as it looks a little dangerous!  There is the crowd gathered around  the pool bar TV, watching the British Football game in progress, and little kids all along the pathways, yelling out “Muzungu! How are you?”

The security guard at the hotel gate was having a rough time of it: there must have been about 15 boys trying to get in and security was not budging!  Many of the children were not here with adults: there were packs of them, 5 or 6 years old, following a ten year old, dropping sweet wrappers along the paths … getting back to the room was bliss!

A wedding party was held at the hotel on Saturday evening; with four beaming white mercs parked at the doors. I did not see the bride but saw a number of happy teen girls in flashing gold dresses and a number of little boys in suits, bow ties and all! 

Deon and I tried to find a quieter section of the hotel grounds and managed to see a number of gorgeous birds: large black-and-white casqued hornbills, gleaming copper sunbirds, and a host of others to bring a smile to the face.  Ah! Wonderful!

Resurrection Sunday was as peaceful as we could make it. We joined a service of a group from the Kamapala Church of Christ for their service: it was excellent to have worship in an African way, and a sense of worshipping one Lord in a communal way. The acapella worship was heartfelt and similar to so many worship services in Morfar’s churches. One slight difference is that when people get into things here there are a number of ‘brripp’s and trills that join in the sounds: very special!  We sang “Walking in the light of God”  and in between each chorus was a hummed- ooo-ooo—oohed interlude which was so pretty!  The men and ladies often sing counterpart / echoing refrains and if it was special in my ears I can only think how it blessed God’s heart.  We were welcomed heartily, starred in the video recording of the sermon and when the group left later in the day forKampalathey waved and greeted vigorously – we are making friends here which feels wonderful.

I realised yesterday how bad the drought in this part of the world is. While we have enjoyed much rain in Joburg there is real difficulty in many parts ofEast Africa. Farmers cannot plant crops and the coffee growers who need this crop to survive are barely existing. Most people here are subsistence farmers – growing just enough to keep their family going.  With the prices of fuel increasing as they have and the prices of goods rising many people here are truly struggling.  Please pray for rains to come and for these dear people to find ways to cope.

This week looks set to be busy: we hope to get in and clean our house; possibly moving in; there is a trip toEntebbelater in the week and then all the usual work that needs to be done too.    (Boredom does not exist in our world!)

This is NOT the Sipi entry.

23 04 2011

Another weekend, another car disappointment! We had hoped to visitSipiFalls, a beautiful area about an hour’s drive away- both last Sunday and today. Our desires to see the world must, however, come second to the needs of others to get to airports when their own vehicle overheats or when there is no fuel.  Please pray that we can find a good vehicle to buy for ourselves soon – dependence on the mine company’s provisions and whims leads to unpleasant frustration! 

So now, on a long weekend, we are stuck with walking- only options.  (Deon will not even consider a bodaboda! J) The hotel’s programme consists of very exciting plans:  live music (loud, very basey), banana peeling contests, dress-up shows: all exactly what you want on a weekend when the death and resurrection of the Lord is celebrated…

Great news is that we have found a house we would like to stay in. It has been standing empty for a while, and hopefully we can get some cleaners in by Tuesday to clean up a bit. The place is a lovely space where we hope we will make a haven and others can feel welcome and peaceful too. The house itself is a 3-roomed home, with wide windows (all covered in mosquito netting) and good cupboard space and built in bookshelves.  The security around the house looks good too.  There is also a good structure outside: a garage, 2 bedroomed guesthouse (probably mine-office use) and a servants quarters space.

What we really like, though, is all the outside space. There is a beautiful Jacaranda tree at the gate, and numerous banana, pawpaw and mango trees around the house. We also get about an acre of land sloping down in front of the house that is planted with bananas, pawpaws and even has chicken coops built in! 

Every single wall in the houses and outside is painted green: hospital green.  The roof is dark green. I am certain that it can be seen on google earth: find Mbale Resort hotel, and about 8 houses up in the same road you should see our house.  We hope to move in ASAP. (photos will follow shortly).

I have been tickled by names of businesses, etc here.  There is a large presence of nominal Christianity and it is obvious that using a Christian cliché as a name will bring all the forces of good to rest on activities (or so it appears).  Here in town we have Rhema Touch Secretarial Bureau, and I jotted down some names I saw in and around Kampala: Psalm 23 Beauty and Bridal Services; God is Able Fresh Dairy Milk; Jesus Cares Supermarket; Ebenezer Anointed Vocational Training; Annointed Driving School and The Speckled Bird Ministries (I have no idea where that name is Scripturally referenced).  The names bring smiles to my lips but I have no idea if the names really indicate the level of service, etc.

A few other entertaining names: Saloon The Best Man: Made in Uganda; Better View Primary and Nursery School; Turkish Light Academy; Fresty Hardwares… Creativity abounds here. I am learning new English every day:  a saloon (salon) advertises “for a real barbing touch!” (eina!) and a car care bay offers ‘hooving’. 

(obviously there are entertaining options just about everywhere one looks!)

Hopefully we will one day let you know of whatSipiFallslook like. But for today it will be bird watching in local walking distance…

A focus on eye candy (or not)

21 04 2011

Sorry that it has been a while, but perhaps I can convince you with this argument: I would like to convey a lesson in empathy with the biggest lesson I am learning at this time: PATIENCE. The refrain that runs through my mind like the chorus of an earworm is: HURRY UP AND WAIT.

We spent Monday to Wednesday in and around the capital city, Kampala. (maybe a third of that time was spent making our way there and back to Mbale… the traffic takes time.)

Between a few business meetings (one lasting about 4 hours) and waiting at banks (about 1 hour and 20 minutes) and waiting in traffic (priceless??) we realized that something we had eaten was not sitting too well with the rest of our systems and we shared together “in sickness and in health”. The wonderful news is that there are excellent pharmaceutical applications that help. After arriving at a hotel, late on Monday evening, Deon had to complete a presentation to be delivered in Oz at 8 the next morning – which was 2 am here: we shared in the labour to get that ready, between running back and forth a bit too.

A quick insert here: one of the difficulties with the mine here is relations with the Ugandans who own land in the area. For the most part they are simple village people and are not worldly wise. They are being paid quite large amounts for their land. One local wanted to see what this was all about and if the Muzungus could be believed: he went to the bank, withdrew the 30 million shillings (about R100 000) paid into his account, counted it all out and deposited it into his account again. He then withdrew about 2 million, kept it for a day and replaced it in his account. I am still not certain what he learned through this exercise!

There was a chance of respite on Tuesday: after meetings in Kampala, and picking out a variety of things to go into our new house here (which we are not yet in possession of – but it is such fun to spend money!) we headed out to Entebbe. Deon needed to go to the geological offices and in the same road are some of the most wonderful places in Entebbe, and possible in all of Uganda! The Entebbe Botanical Gardens are spread across a swathe of Lake Victoria beach-front, and have massive trees representing the equatorial jungles of Uganda. We stayed in the Botanic Beach hotel, our room was 5 meters from the fence of the gardens and the beauty of the gardens was ours to share. Walking through the gardens of this hotel was restorative and peaceful: it was much needed soul-nourishment.
The odd interior decorating did add too our comic relief. Can you imagine Eton-style austerity mixed with a bad replica of The Lost City’s rock faces? It does seem peculiar but exists! The hallways are incredibly long, with polished wooden floors (yes, we longed to slide down in our socks!) and wooden paneling along the walls. Above that and along the exteriors are badly constructed ancient wall-lookalikes. Mmm. Our room was spacious and comfortable but the bathroom was really entertaining (I will do my best to add the video clip we took.)
There were (sand-blasted glass) divisions between the toilet, shower and bath spaces. The walls were sensibly and cheerily tiled in lime-green, yellow and white tiles: this was a little at odds with the Eton-like hallways, but friendliness in a bathroom (especially after a tummy bug) will cheer one endlessly.) The pinnacle of decorating-bliss, though, was the Las Vegas style red glitter double basin and mirror cabinet filling up the space in the bathroom. I may not be Nate Burkess, but even I could see there was a little problem here.

After the chance to laugh, look (at birds, mainly) and let go a little, we were back on the road through Kampala to Mbale. The dreadful traffic in Kampala, midday on Wednesday, took at least 2 hours to navigate. It was with great relief we arrived back at our home, the rooms of the Mbale Hotel fairly late on Wednesday.

Still to follow: entries about birds seen, names of shops and further wise choices in décor and style learned in the heart of Africa.

Apologies – our camera here is most uninspiring. After our first trip home more and better photos will fill the blog.

Cathedrals in the rocks and other titles

15 04 2011

It seems like there is a good supply of electricity at the moment and the internet from the hotel (which is meant to be wireless in the rooms and has only worked intermittently since our arrival)  is working – let me sit with you and blog a while.

We are making progress: I attended a great Ladies’ Bible study yesterday, and there are friends to be made in this here town! (obviously Americans are present!) But I wanted to explain the title of our blog, really.

Deon and I love the outdoors and all things natural. In finding a house the most important thing, almost more important than the usefulness of rooms, a kitchen and functional roof, is that there should be good trees in the garden.  Nature is THAT important.

Since we met and spent one of our first ‘dates’ at Suikerbosrand, we have contemplated “klipsit”. This is a lovely Afrikaans term that completely loses its soundiness in English. Literally it means “rock-sitting” and captures those lovely moments when one sits out on the seats God provides in nature, resting, admiring the surrounds or just remembering to BE.

Another activity we enjoy is “boslê” – literally “lying in forests”, but again, it sounds so much better in Afrikaans!  We agreed that if we ever wrote a book about the places we go it would have this name : Klipsit en boslê – we love the sound.  But it does not quite make sense to all our English friends.

When looking for titles for the blog I googled quotes that deal with rocks (obviously quite special to Deon!) and nature.  Some awesome quotes emerged:

“Cathedrals in the rocks” – from Antoine de Saint Exuprery:  – ‘A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind’.   We see God’s creative hand in so many formations. The Wanale Ridge behind our town has awesome rock faces that catch the sun in so many ways throughout the day – I KNOW God lives there!

  • I also liked this quote by Osho:  Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars. and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful. Everything is simply happy. Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance. Look at the flowers – for no reason. It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are.

But that would make a rather absurd and un-catchy title.

Then I came across an excerpt from Inversnaid by GM Hopkins:

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wildness yet.

Is that not a big part of us? Deon’s passion for water, boats, etc; and the unplanned gardens of God’s imagination, out in wildness?  That it comes from GM Hopkins, whose poetry rings of praises for God, is so appealing to me (Karen).

So that is it then… Let weeds, wet and wildness remain until we have had a chance to explore it all!


Of markets and movement

13 04 2011


A lot of time for me has been spent just mulling around: the hotel is a safe place to just relax a bit and I especially enjoy mornings out at the pool on a recliner. There is no-one else  using the facility (although there are many staff around), the sapphire blue sends tranquil reflections into my heart and I get time to read, meditate and try to catch up on my writing course.

The entire town has been without power since Monday and unless a place has a generator they are useless.  The hotel has a generator but it chokes out black sos smoke signals far more than it offers power. We try to grab some computer recharge when we can. The kitchens have also been badly affected (instead of a usual meal taking about 45 min it now takes up to 2 hours) and the poor staff are pushed to their limits of usual Ugandan friendliness.  We recognize that firm alternatives  to grid power need to be in place here.  Discussions about this always provide good conversation fodder!

I have been trying to discover the town a little while Deon slaves away over reports, investigations and maps. I have just returned from getting a post box ordered so we can receive mail!  Don’t include things which are valuable, and we have seen the recommendation that you draw religious icons or write “Religious material included” across parcels: spiritual items should apparently not be tampered with! If sending parcels (which would always be great) a padded envelope is best. I am very proud of making this acquisition all by myself and it only took a few days!  I needed passport photos, which took some doing as without power most shops could not print them, but eventually got it right in a crowded and dirty little spot in town. And there was no queue at all at the post office – Ah!  Bliss!

We now have a hired car and driver and I took full advantage of that today: I wanted to get a feel of the market, which is the heartbeat of any African town. I was dropped off here and felt rather nervous about going in alone and so I did not take a camera – when Deon feels brave enough to go with me there is a profusion of photographic images calling out to be captured forever!

I found the area outside to be bustling but the driver commented that it was a quiet day today!  I entered the market into narrow alleys crowded with all things sellable. There is a clear order in the mayhem: different sections sell specific goods: vegetables and fruit together, cooked food just a short space away, houseware just a bit further along: first the Ugandan kind of each uniquely made clay stoves, wooden implements and large alluminium pots and the jarring mass produce of Indian plastic kitchen goods besides that, then sheds spreading the colourful clothing that Africa loves. I was not there for long, but will definitely return as there is a vibrancy and compulsion to the place – and it is the only spot to get fresh vegetables in town!

I am finding out about opportunities to meet people: there are groups that meet up in the week, and I offered to help out at one missions-based place today… will let you know of developments.

We don’t know specifics of when we will move to our house yet, and prayer for Deon at work will be appreciated.