A short visit to the Motherland

31 05 2011

It is the middle of a week long visit back to SA.  Boy, did we choose superb weather! (NOT!) A balmy 0 degree Celcius tonight, day time highs of 12 or so – AAAARRGGHH!  Get me back to Uganda!

It is a great feeling to know that Uganda feels like HOME to us:  we are missing the climate, but also the people and our space.  We did value our being in Uganda  the past few weeks but this has just confirmed it – despite its madness and peculiarities, we love Africa (the real thing!) and cannot wait to get back there.

Both Deon and I have been feeling a bit off and Deon really has picked up a grim bug.  It is awful to see him sniffing, coughing and feeling pain.  It is under proper medical care but just makes for a less pleasant time here. 

It is super to spend time with the family, be surrounded by those we love and who love us and to share our stories of our new home.  We are also stocking up on the things we struggle to get in Uganda – so a few coffee stops to gain strength for the next session have to be fitted in! HO HUM!  Unfortunately we can’t do a lot of eating out at night – this cold is so darned… cold – and with a few sickies in the family it just won’t work.  So cuddling up in the lounge with a blanket or Dad’s great fire make for cosy evenings. 

A fact: Sniffer dogs can sniff.  I tried to smuggle in 2 of our gorgeously delicious avocados to share with the family.  When we were waiting for Deon’s bag, and mine had already come, the gorgeous little beagle walked past and showed particular interest in my bag.  My problem was that I had tried to smuggle the fruit past Deon too – he had said not to bring them and following in the footsteps of my non-airline-obedient grandfather (who brought a  dishwasher as hand-luggage once) I thought the avos were far too good to keep unshared.  Aforementioned doggie started clawing at my bag.  I asked his handler if the dog has different reactions for different substances (I would never ever try to smuggle drugs, so what was his fuss?) and the handler said he could smell “"agricultural products”. Dear doggie would not leave my bag, and Deon was starting to get agitated… I had to pull out our delicious fruit and hand over the loot!  Neither Deon nor I were very pleased (for different reasons) but I am sure the handler had great sarmies for lunch.   I no longer fancy the beagle breed.


Our helpers

25 05 2011

This is to help understand a little who is around us and I will mention the names at other times in other blogs – I learn a lot from these people every day!

In some ways it is just impossible to avoid colonial habits in a country entrenched in colonial ways.  I admit(not always too guiltily!) that it is a great pleasure to have somebody helping with dishes, to have the gardeners do their thing… it really is a blessing.

I know that some of my varsity friends and others of liberal mindsets will balk at the idea- are we not perpetuating slavery and colonialism in these habits?  Here, on the cold hard face of reality in Uganda, it is different.

We were approached by Richard, one of the helpers at another of the miners’ houses, to use these people.  Richard almost begged us to consider them.  Here are our helpers and a little of their stories to explain why by employing these people  there is a lot more going on than “colonial disempowerment”.

I am continually shocked when I realise what the going wages here are.  For 6 days of work a week, the average pay for gardeners and housekeepers is less than R600 a month; about $85 a month. (This is what the company pays.  We feel this is crazy and do supplement this. We also provide lunch and tea, which many others do not do.)  This measly amount is what was being pleaded for.


Somebody who has come to be a friend and great helper in a very short time is Sarah.  She leads me through the markets, prepares great matooke (plantain bananas) and helps to keep our house looking good.

I am discovering the heart of this precious woman day by day.  It is through her that I am becoming involved in a work that looks after numerous children- I want to help in training women with useful money-making skills. Sarah and her husband Evans are involved in leading this ministry which hopes to establish an orphanage.  Sarah and Evans have 4 children of their own (between 18 months and 10 years old)

I just discovered today that Sarah composes her own worship songs and has had one recorded!  We have been working on knitting together-  Sarah learned the basics last week- and I am certain that her heart is towards others:whatever she accomplishes is quickly given to those in need. 


Michael is our main gardener and works very hard at keeping the jungles around here tame! I see that he is regarded with honour by those who come here just for being who he is. Michael has three of his own children and has adopted another.

Michael is the pastor of a church and he lives a concern for the spiritual wellbeing of others – he wanted to know soon after our meeting if I was a believer.  Michael stays on our compound during the week and goes to his home (about 20 km away) on the weekends.  His honesty and help are great, and I know he spends a great deal of his work time praying.


Our newest worker is Titus.(Titus started 2 days ago)   He is recently graduated from a computer college and cannot get work in other places (the plight of many here.) Titus has a wife and a fairly new baby of 15 months. He is happy to be here on weekends, when Michael is away and is the appointed key man, to watch that we do not get locked in our compound by silly security men! 


I believe that God has brought these people to us for us to minister to each other.  I love that we have godly honest people to pray over our space and who make a difference to others when they leave this space.  Please pray for their ministries as well – that God will continue to use them as He desires. 

I say, I say… a bit of linguistic awareness

23 05 2011


As a teacher of English language for a good number of years it was quite common for me to correct English often: for students (repeatedly), on shop signs (some times) and to lament the rape of the language in newspapers. 

Coming toAfricachallenges my desire to set the world of English aright. Firstly to try to correct it all would be plain exhausting, and then I try to be accepting, non-judgmental… blahblahblah. 

I am fascinated by how certain turns of phrase are just different in different parts ofAfrica, obviously due to differences in the root language.  One such difference is in whether something is available or not.  When ordering food in a hotel I have learned to ask if a certain food is ‘there’.  (eg – is chicken there?)  In our first week or so we saw the hotel offered Fruit salad and ice-cream – yum!  We asked for this and the waitress returned to say “The ice-cream is missing”.  (we imagined the chef, crossing his kitchen and opening his deepfreeze.  There would be a look of utter disbelief across his face: “Aw, the icecream.  It is missing!  Where has it gone?”) Now I am quite familiar with the response – ‘The icecream is not there.’

Another difference is in using ‘please’ more often than we would in SA.  I ask,  “Can you tidy my table?”  The reply is “yes, please.”  Or ‘Do you have icecream?” The reply , ‘yes please.”     (I am still trying to determine the linguistic reason for this one.)

Another fascinating use is the term “Well done”.  We have not met people before, but they will greet us and say, “Hello. Well done.”  Or if a night guard enters our compound he may greet and then say ‘Well done’.  I am not totally accustomed to receiving praise so readily!  This morning we had breakfast at our old hotel where we had spent the first month or so, and the waiter there knew I was trying to get a few Lugisu phrases into my head. When he saw our familiar faces he greeted us, and said the now familiar “Well done”. I asked him about this and was surprised at how positive a greeting this is. 

In Lugisu one will greet: Mulembe (Hallo)  Oriena? (How are you?)

Bulyi (I am fine).     Next can easily follow ‘Whakenyala’ – Well done. 

From what I could determine from the waiter, this is a recognition of whatever the person has accomplished since last seeing them (or not). It seems that people know living here is tough; just coping from day to day, and completing habitual chores calls for congratulations.

But there are times that the pathetic use of English, particularly in publications, frustrates every English brain cell and spinal nerve in my body.  Every single day English will be twisted in the newspapers. I have not kept all these manglings – I do not have enough note books for that.  But here are a few I have seen in the past few days:

A sign at the library this morning:  “Stealing/mutilation or insinuations of library materials is a serious crimes.”

  (How do you insinuate books?  I wonder if they intended “incinerate”? Then just say      the word people will understand… BURN.   Grrrr)

What set me off with all this was the clipping from Saturday’s newspaper: 

If you are publishing something nationally, PLEASE edit it!  There is small difference between                                            and                                                 . 

In a land where Judaism forms a miniscule part of the makeup, and outbreak of rabbis may well be received very well.

Until the next bad sign,  farewell!

hospital realities

19 05 2011

Today I started doing stuff with Jenga (http://jengauganda.org/projects/).  I would like to get involved in their ladies’ literacy groups and that has not happened yet.  One of the far more regular commitments that I can have with them is their hospital ministry on a Thursday morning. 

Jenga has a development philosophy that I really like: the Muzungus (westerners!) are there to enable and facilitate the Ugandans in making the real difference. So when giving is done it happens through Ugandan hands, not through the rich whities.  (So many people have the perception that white skin = huge wealth and deep pockets to throw money at dark skin. Totally unknown children greeted us while driving past their village: “Mzungu! Give me money!”)  But the thing is to make a difference and impact on this area for God’s kingdom.

I joined in the visit this morning expecting to learn, see something different and to pray for a few people.  I was uncertain of a great deal and probably not quite mentally prepared for what I would see.  I am an African, I knowAfrica. 

Not THISAfrica.  Although we had been briefed before the visit I was still shocked… as I think I should be every single time I will visit the hospital.  I do not think a person should ever be immune and hardened to the suffering of others. Unfortunately there are scabs of hardness that have calloused parts of my heart: seeing droopy eyes and cupped palms at traffic lights inSouth Africa can do that to you. After seeing hospitals inIndia and doing some ministry programmes at TB hospitals on the KZN coast in SA, I have seen some bad situations. What I saw today struck me as being worse than a number of situations seen before.

The TB wards at Mbale’s big hospital have been upgraded.  The walls are painted and they have ceilings. (Apparently before the metal sheeting of the roofs was the only protection from heat and rain; there were cobwebs and dirt all over.) The wards are divided into a male patient and female patient section and each of those sections has 16 beds.  The occupancy was not too high today – there are times that every bed is taken.  The beds are shabby and the mattresses very thin, worn and threadbare. Each patient is given a bed and there are 2 wooden shelves are built into the wall. No fancy lights, curtains for privacy (or even the windows), no spaces for drips, medical equipment, plugs…The hard concrete floors are untiled. It is bare and the atmosphere I felt was HOPELESSNESS.

This is not a great situation for the TB patients: many of them are in the hospital for 6 months at a time to complete their treatment.  The usual situation for all patients is they must each have a care-giver: somebody to prepare food, assist them with cleaning themselves, their beds (no hospital linen is provided) and collecting and paying for medicines and any equipment that may be needed – drips, syringes, swabs, etc. (The care giver will sleep on a papyrus mat next to the bed of the patient, with boxes of food paraphernalia under the bed. Not too hygienic!)  There are many who just do not have this care giver and if they are really ill they lie feeling lonely, abandoned and HOPELESS.

As soon as we walked into the ladies’ ward and I saw the emaciated forms lying on the bed, my thought was “Jesus loves these people.” Their skinny frames, faces emitting discouragement, slapped the reality of despair in this country in my face.  Until now I have seen the happy: cheerful kids, friendly people serving at the hotel, willing bodies assisting in our house –shiny, shiny, shiny.  This was the other end of the spectrum.  As we bowed over the bodies I had a sense of the Jesus of Luke being most at home here: leaching compassion for the hurt, weeping with the women… all the people that shiny shiny does not have time for.

We heard a little of each person’s story in the few minutes we spent with them.  Children taken away to a village and no-one to care for Angelina: her loneliness and hurt (besides the pain of her sickness) tore at my heart. She has been lying in the ward for 3 or so months. Shirley is so skinny her shoulder bones stand out like American Football gear. Her stomach pains unbearably. Neither Shirley nor Angelina had the energy to raise their heads as we were praying for them but the tears streamed down from their eyes as we touched them.  We moved across to Connie: 21 years old, 6 months pregnant (unmarried) and diagnosed about 2 weeks ago. She shrieked with delight at a change from the boredom as we entered the ward to pray. Beatrice, whose mother has given up planting crops for the family to care for her daughter. 

Another precious one where we stopped briefly (but others were there to pray so I did not get the name): A girl who looked no older than 12 in her flimsiness said she is 20.  She has a 4 year old daughter with her in the ward – this daughter has malaria at the moment. The mother, weak and in pain (TB medication is very strong and uncomfortable) has to take care of her ill daughter. The little one had wet the bed where she had been sleeping and the mother barely had the energy to find clothes to change her.

These are just a few stories that I saw today.  How many more events of utter pain and hurt are there in the world today? I am deeply burdened by these few… I cannot help but think of the Messiah Who knows each situation intimately and is moved by each one’s pain.  Despite all the shiny shiny and the deep agony of living He remains unchangeable and ABOUNDING in mercy and HOPE.  He is the God of all hope.

We prayed that that hope would be felt by those feeling hopeless today. 

I deliberately included names in this entry so that if you choose to, you could pray for the particular individuals we have lifted to God today already. 

Despite the situation, somebody may come by and give a hopeful word, and share in the hurt.  There is always a hope. Always.

I Foundz yarn!

17 05 2011

–          Not quite Yarnia,  but in this dirty, hot, tropical African town, after six weeks of searching,  I FOUND YAAAAAARRRNNN!  (I see myself standing on the point of Wanale ridge, balls of baby yellow and white 100% acrylic clutched in my hands, yelling out across the plateau. Are you getting a sense of my enjoyment and feeling of success?)

I dedicate this entry to all my fellow fiber-crafters. There may be details that you will particularly appreciate.

This is how the morning went: Sarah arrived for work bearing gifts. She had seen my ONE WIP I brought with and asked if I enjoyed knitting. When Sarah replied that she does too my heart did a double skip… was it possible that such great gifts as yarn could be located, here, among the trees and malaria?  I had seen a  local lady crocheting as we drove by some days back, so there was the vaguest possibility…

It turns out that Sarah and her husband Evans are involved in establishing a programme here which enables people of the community with skills: carpentry and tailoring mostly, but they have received supplies of yarn , needles etc from theUK.  I visited the premises they are building this morning and tried to learn a little bit more of what they are doing.

Any task inUgandarequires great amounts of time and trouble with a sprinkling of harshness for good measure. Although the organization started in 2004 there is not much to show for it yet. The big struggle has been with premises, and if I read correctly, they want their own identity. People have visited them before but they have always been visited by people involved in other organizations. 

Now they have a building on the way: it was started yesterday and today is already made up of walls and the framework for a roof! The building is constructed from a wooden lattice work, with mud caked in.  This will dry and then be covered by cement, roofed and voila! A structure for training in carpentry and stitchwork exists!  (I would like to get involved in training / helping with knitting here.  It is possible to get contracts to knit school jerseys, which can provide a reasonable income for ladies in need).

Sarah brought  me some needles this morning: metal  size 8 needles, and 2 of a set of DPNs – I think size 7? Then she presented her prize: 2 balls of all-wool-chunky-grey yarn. My eyes sparkled and hands grabbed for yarn. Wow! But my heart sank – what can you do with horribly mismatched needles and yarn?  I am still staring at the combinations wondering…

But dear, wonderful Sarah took me into town a little later. We looked at the facilities of the programme and then Sarah bravely led me to the market area: in the grubbiest of places there are treasures to be found!  In this area the shops are about 3×4 m, crowded with everything imaginable: one shop sells dried beans decoratively ARRANGED, the next carrybags (a number of which still proudly declare Fifa’s running of the World Cup in SA) and the butcher’s too – but I will dedicate and entire blog to butchers some time. We wandered from little shop to little shop, sometimes glancing, sometimes asking.  At the sixth or seventh place, two ladies working in the shop nodded at Sarah’s questions. AH!  “Stop the clock! We have the treasure!” The little cubicles sell groceries, cleaning soaps, packets and boxes of sugar and salt.  I glanced to where the ladies were pointing and the mix of emotions thrilled and terrified me at the same time. There were a number of balls of glaring day-glo yellow yarn. Brighter than anything my granny ever knitted, kitscher than any find in an Indian market… it was that bad. 

Do I buy this, the only yarn I can buy in town? What on earth do I knit in single-hue day-glo yellow? Sarah turned and relieved me of the decision. She backtracked about three shoplets and there, hanging in the doorway were three packets of yarn: sedate black, glorious pure white and baby yellow. I reached in and the automatic reaction of running soft, tender yarn to my cheek could not be resisted… ah!  There is no indication on the wrapping of ply, or needle size assistance, just the proud acknowledgement of 100% acrylic, Made inKenya. I am guessing that it is about 3 / 4 ply.

Now for the greater challenge: is there a possibility of finding knitting needles in this town?  (by now my neck was sweating from exhaustion and heat and I hoped that the search would not go on endlessly.) The owner of the shop where we purchased the yarn said the next shop sells needles: This owner pulled out a box far too tiny to contain knitting needles and my heart sank beneath my crusty heels. He DID pull out a box of crochet needles next… and this is now my great challenge: learn to crochet!  At least I can run my fingers through the yarn, redeveloping the love affair started a few years ago.

So, a lesson for today: seek and you will find.  And be content with what you have – things might just be worse… day-gro-brightest-yellow-in-the-world worse!

Lots of running water — wheehaa

15 05 2011

It has been a great weekend. Deon has not worked at all this weekend and we have had a chance to discover a little more about this land that we live in.

Yesterday we drove up Wanale Ridge, my personal delight near to our home.

After Deon finished reading a cowboy book (his only reading pleasure!) this morning we decided to explore Sipi: in the foothills of Mount Elgon, a massive volcanic feature about an hour or so from Mbale.  We appreciated the amazing layers of evidence of volcanic activity (something we cannot see in SA). There were huge volcanic bombs within certain layers and then others with fine ash grains – Deon was in awe!

Whereas the roads up to Wanale Ridge were pretty awful the roads to Sipi were good (apparently a sign of support for the ruling party in govt) which means that when you come visit we can take you there without discomfort!

We have seen at least ten Waterfalls in the last 2 days- and each one is beautiful. As it is now wet season the waterfalls are looking spectacular.  The area is also vivid, bountiful green. It is life for a tired soul.

Unfortunately there was no area that is not populated: I heard a figure which states that the population of Uganda has trebled in the last ten years.  This shows itself in people all over! The tenuous slopes of steep hills are under banana trees and coffee crops, villages verge on the busy roads… what we would like to appreciate in solitude is impossible. Whenever we pulled the car to side of the road to take a picture a number of little (and large) bodies would offer to take us to the Falls, or ask directly for money. 

But the views are superb, from heights down to vast plains below and it inspires us to know that all the works of the Creator speak of His passion for us. Wow!

3 falls-SipiMain Sipi

Three main falls at Sipi                                     The Main Sipi Falls

View - Lacam Lodge



View down to the flats beyond the lava flows.  Can you see the crops growing on the slopes?

I am glad not to be farming there!

Just another week in Uganda

14 05 2011

Another week in Mbale has gone by. It is wonderful to be in our own house: sitting having breakfast in PJs on the stoop, getting hands dirty in the ground, lying on the sofa watching TV at night – all good.

Some good things from this week:

· A postcard from Andrew! (Mail obviously travels much faster from Sweden than anywhere else. An empty mailbox is awful! All letters are welcomed and replied to!)

PitMapping12May2011 026· Garden taking shape: compost pit is dug and I can use it as much as I want! (Some people will understand why this is a MASSIVE delight!), some aloes and wild dagga are in to attract the birds, and lawns are trimmed. This coming week is VEGGIEFrogSharpenedSmall PLANTING TIME!

· Delightful creatures – wall-climbing frog, massive bat – outdoors, thank goodness!, birds, geckos ; I love all the LIFE of the outdoors!


· A wonderful trip up Wanale Ridge this morning – Deon is not working (or should that get its own bullet?) Wanale fills my soul with joy at least 36 times a day! To drive up this morning and see the waterfalls (at least 3), greenness, sheer cliffs and be OUT was magical.

Falls   Grotto at fallsTown from ridge

· Our health – no sickness when a number of people around us have malaria, or have fallen and hurt themselves badly (the floors here are darned hard) .

· Meeting people in an organisation where I would like to get involved (more will follow)

· Rainstorms most afternoons – these water the earth and cool the climate; besides providing hours of entertaining sheets of rain.

Some frustrations:

· People don’t understand simple instructions which has led to great aloe plants being chucked out, us being locked into our compound from outside the gate, getting ‘roast potatoes’ instead of rosti at a restaurant (small issue but a bit funny) and several levels of exasperations a day.

· Still not having our own vehicle

· People deceiving / stealing/ being mean – from having people come over the back fence and steal fruit and vegetables, to lying to us, to having seen the crowds disperse after somebody was beaten to death after being caught stealing phones in town; we realise that God is not the Lord of this land and people’s hearts need changing.

This is AFRICA – on a whole different level to South Africa.

wedding carA bit of evidence of AFRICA celebrations.  We just don’t celebrate weddings is such style, do we? Should have had bells on the front of our car… Oh darn!