creativity catch up

30 07 2011

Here are a few pics of what I have been doing with my hands in the last while.  Firstly, some recycling:

I have lots of little bits of paper that I cut off from notes for classes.  I cannot bear to throw them away.  I cannot bring myself to toss cardboard boxes either. I saw the idea in a ravelry group, and here are my own matchbook notebooks: 

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So if you want one, send a letter and a notebook could be on the way!  (ok, I know my brothers will now NEVER write!)

Then trying out things for the knitting classes.  This is with plarn – plastic bags made into yarn.  (we have no-to-little yarn (wool) here but plastic bags in ABUNDANCE lying around.  The aim is to use these to make things to sell.  But after this tryout I think we will make smaller items than shoulder bags! Work still in progress, though:

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I LOVE the patterns (self striping!) made by the yellow and black bags from aristoc, a great book store here.

Another knitted item, this baby blanket, made with local yarn (4 ply, 100% acrylic – I bragged about it in an earlier blog!)

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Then a task I have been busy with for about 6 weeks.  The oil takes so long to dry here, and we have been away for trips in between.  But it matches our curtains and speaks of the Africa we love:

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Ah!  it is so special to do things that you can see before the ideas. The gift of creativity MUST be used and cherished.


A trip to the wilder west

29 07 2011

We got to experience some of the beauty and wildness of the country over an extended weekend.  Deon had to check out some drilling action so we decided to see some of this land linked up to that.


We started out from Kampala on Friday morning full of expectation and a little hassled.  The hassle grew about half way to our first stop – Hamid, the driver, and a pedestrian came a little too close to each other.  The pedestrian had run out from behind a truck, stopped, looked like he was going to return and then did not.  Hamid was going slowly at the time but in the back of the suv I could feel a thump.  I was too scared to climb out when Deon ran over to assist. But the walker sat up, no blood but lots of dust.  We saw him to a doctor, got coke for all to treat shock, and then dealt with the hassles.  Within 30 seconds there was a crowd of about 50 onlookers, and the Mzungu effect was noticeable.  The police were called, and we had to give statements  and do a lot of paperwork.  All this took 2 hours, and cost our driver 100 000Sh (about R300) to pay to the pedestrian for damages.  Yip, the driver had to pay the pedestrian for his stupidity.  Aaaai. 


IMG_6763We were eventually on the road again and spent the next two pleasantly uneventful nights in Kibale forest area.  It was WONDERFUL waking up to rain in a rainforest and feeling the power of trees that have stood forever keeping watch over all.  We did a walk with a guide in a wetland and saw an amazing range of birds and primates.  We did not see chimps but saw 8 other types of primates!  The guide was very knowledgeable and spent great time with us.  The community is trying a lot to keep themselves growing, which was great to see.  

The bird above is great blue turaco – such a wonderful sight!


Tea plantations after Fort Portal.                The red-headed colobus, most commonly found in the area around the Bigodi swamps.



An amazing experience was walking through clouds of butterflies – the photo simply does not capture it.  Uganda’s butterflies are the most amazing I have seen ANYWHERE in the world – they will get a blog dedicated to them soon!                         Next is a black-winged turaco.  He gave us a delightful show.

Overall, over 50 bird species seen in one walk, 28 were lifers.  This in the middle of the day.  Wonderful!

One of the amazing views along the way was of several  Trip west Jul 11 004crater lakes, as this area is full of a volcanic history.  These are often so beautiful ,serene and a special sight.  This one here was about 400 m across, had a number of banana trees around and looked great for a swim!  (we held ourselves in check, though!)




We made our way on to Queen Elizabeth National Park with booking made far too far for our time allowance.  We did make a quick stop on the Equator: One just MUST stop at these landmarks and pull a pose! 

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We were not too sure of where we would stay the night – I had made bookings but it turned out to be rather far so we decided to treat ourselves to a special night at Mweya Lodge, the main larny spot in QENP.  What a special place this is!  The lodge is set high on a ridge looking over the Kazinga channel, which joins Lake George and Lake Edward.  The area is dry, with numerous candelabra ‘trees’ (naboom) and some extensive plains of grassland.  The game viewing is not as remarkable as in Kruger Park – the diversity of mammals is not nearly as extensive and the area is substantially smaller.  But the mood and ‘wow factor’ of the lodge was truly amazing.  The waterways are packed with lazing buffalos, hippos and a good amount of elephant.  We took a boat trip along the channel – we saw about 60 bird species on this trip alone!  The close-up experiences with hippo (one of whom got very upset with us and tried to fight with the boat-scary!), kingfishers and a range of other life-forms will stay with us forever. 

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Our welcoming committee, and then a view over the channel from the restaurant.  Hippos, buffs and ellies on the opposite bank.

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African spoonbills  and a gorgeous pair of fish eagles.  (there were regular calls from them – ah.  Africa!)

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Pelicans and cormorants gather in huge flocks.  Then below – Ugandans love saddle-billed storks because their bills are the colours of the Ugandan flag.    We love the black-headed gonoleks.  We are now getting the call right – they sound like an oriole, with an extra sqwh at the end. 

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After a night at Mweya we headed down to Ishasha.  The area is most well-known for tree climbing lions.  We did not see the tree-climbers, but did find a lovely spot to do some camping and got a few minutes with this chap and his girlfriend. 

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They did not stay for long, but I wanted to show you how such big creatures can just disappear in the grass! 


The area here is filled with Ugandan cob – family of Puku and Impala.  (also the favourite menu item of the lions!)

We also saw topi- family of hartebeest.  I think they are so handsome!

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We spent a rather bleh night near to Ishasha , and then set out VERY early on Tuesday morning for Deon’s interview.  We travelled in the dark on roads that were just AWFUL! Forget sand roads, these were rock roads. At the same time we were descending down the Albertine Rift valley, so there were several steep areas. In retrospect I am glad that it was too dark to see – from the bits I did see the verges were deep, steep and terrifying! 

I read and dozed in the gob-spot of a village called Ibanda while Deon went out to see the bore-ing equipment.  Then we headed on to the next Game park – Lake Mburo.  We LONG to return to this spot!  It feels like the bushveld and is so atmospheric.  The problem here is that the rich politicians and generals have their own additions to the reserve – Trip west Jul 11 551these ankole cattle.  They are strangely compelling with their huge horns, but the massive numbers they are in do not belong in any kind of nature reserve! 

We did see zebra and Defassa waterbuck here too, and slept in a comfortable bush tent overnight.  We were blessed with rains on the plains of Africa, both as we were driving in and overnight.  If you have never smelt the dust settled after an African rainstorm, you have missed a compelling part of existence! 

We had very few things for self-service and had to pull out our survival skills here.  The restaurant was hopeless and we eventually left unfed, so pulled out a tin of tuna, and then had a tin of sweetcorn for breakfast.  I needed a shower and REALLY struggle Trip west Jul 11 534with freezing showers.  After I had struggled for a while to get the wet firewood to co-operate, dear wonderful Deon came to get the donkey going and we had a wonderful warm shower in the bush.  (We did not have towels with us – another survival skill- using dirty T-shirts from previous days for drying! But the shower was SO awesome!)


While I was dressing I heard rooting and grunting outside the tent and all while we were eating we were joined by a trio of warthogs, coming about the closest I have seen them.  Ah.  Africa. 

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We would LOVE to spend more time in this park, with a bit more supplies to keep us going. 

All in all, we LOVED this time away!  We are privileged and blessed to be in Africa, seeing, smelling, feeling her all around us. 


I will share some more butterflies, birds and perhaps some others in later blogs. 

Linguistics tortured my name!

20 07 2011

Over the last while I have realised that my name is not great for universal application.  Since visiting Zambia about 15 years ago, it became clear that Karen is not very usual, and most often the pronunciation was something more like “Colin”.  I sort of became used to it.

When our team served in India it was chaotic!  Of the 4 girls in our team, there was Karin and Karen (both pronounced the same – Car/ yn – with the emphasis on Kar, said like the car you drive.) we also had Carien.  When friends came to visit we had to use adjectives – the tall one, the one with short hair, etc.  It caused a lot of fun for us! (And they struggled with the sounds too).

In South Africa, I had been named “Thandiwe”  – said ‘tand-ee-we)(and sometimes Thandeka) in African circles.  The name means “love” and changes a little from ‘she who is loved’ to ‘she who loves’, with the different use.  This name helped a lot as my English name there was a bit more like Kkorren – o as in port, e as in hen. 

I have struggled with my name in various circles here. Among the American and British expats Karen is fairly common – but pronounced with ‘a’ like cat. Trying to say my name for the Ugandans to write down is very difficult  and I usually write it myself.  The l/r sound switch is made regularly – it usually helps to see a word written to get it right.

At times I am a little slow – like almost 4 months slow.  I have been trying to learn a little of language here, and have been speaking with our driver, Hamid, about places we want to visit over the weekend.  Kibale forest, Kyoga and Kiyembe market… Hamid corrects my pronunciation: These words are said Chibale, Cheeyoga and Cheeyembe. 

If I get it, if my name is read from paper here, it can then be said as “Chollen”.  Gulp.


Don’t even start to explain Scheepers.

A delight of birds

19 07 2011


Deon has captured some superb bird images since the weekend.  Here are a few:

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The beautiful and showy (Female scarlet sunbird; woodlands kingfisher)

to the absurd and hungry:


(Black and white casqued hornbill; Ruppell’s starling)

To the VERY hungry (I just love the goo visible on the beak!)


The trees are squawking non-stop at the moment!  Our guava is a particularly great place to hang out, as the noisy Brown (Meyer’s) parrots testify (voluminously!). We have at least 5 hanging around regularly! 

But sometimes the parrots, and even the maniacal plantain eaters are a bit shy!


And then the not so pretty bird-wannabees…

Fruit bats!  Just hanging around, vegging!


Brrooooom! Yuuummm!

18 07 2011

Please excuse the very basic level of onomatopoeia.  Sometimes the baser instinct emerges and says things best.


We now own a set of Ugandan wheels.  Banana bread 005

After a good deal of searching Deon has found something that will serve our needs – both as an exploration vehicle for work and for our own travels and discoveries. 

The vehicles here are originally from Japan – they come as second hand vehicles to the ‘bond yards’ here and are then sold again.  This car has had one Ugandan driver, and is still in good condition.  It is a ‘93 model (yes, 93), with under 100 000km driven.  It looks fit and ready to take us many more miles around East Africa.  YAY! 

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Banana bread 001Dear Sarah-the-superb is STILL busy in the kitchen (but she did arrive late today – I am not a slave driver!) – but her great gift today and the reason for her busyness …

Can you guess what this is?  Take a closer look, can you get a whiff of the delicious scents emanating from the pot?  Right, it is brown, has a sweet aroma, and tastes delicious. 

Here’s a clue – it was cooked on this: Banana bread 008

which is called a sigili / sigiri in Lugisu.  (a charcoal stove)The stove is made of clay and costs about R7 ($1) in the market.  This stove is about 30 cm across, including the rim, and is not much taller than that.  Here’s a glimpse of the coals, nice and hot:

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So.  Does that help you in figuring the riddle? Sarah-the-superb walked in to the kitchen this morning, saw 3 brown-black bananas and decided that a banana loaf was today’s great task.  So when I got back from class today, Mike had been tasked with watching so that the loaf did not overcook (it will not burn as the pot is placed in a saucepan of water) and we had this with a cup of tea: Banana bread 002


This is hopefully whetting your appetite a little more so that you will consider coming to visit us.  We are about ready to host guests and would love to share our world with you. 

Successes in the City

15 07 2011

We had a brief trip to Kampala on Wednesday and Thursday and both of us felt like we got a lot done. 

We visited the Makerere University Campus Geology department and Deon has appointed an Ugandan geologist trainee.  They also interviewed for other positions with strong possibilities for appointment. Deon has sourced places for lab equipment, bags for storage, and fit in a few other business meetings as well.

I love the Golf View Hotel, my favourite stayover place in Kampala.  The rooms are big, the people friendly and there is a good ol’ South African Spur (Steak restaurant) in the hotel.  It is right next to 2 malls where we can get a lot of what we need – Aristoc bookshop is a favourite hangout!  I bought a number of books for teaching, and a great book on simple health matters – I have been asked some medical questions beyond my scope. 

Another great benefit is that the hotel supplies decent amounts of water.  Normally there is one little bottle for the two of us.  Here we get 2 bottles in the fridge, another at the basic for teeth brushing and one for coffee.  Normally there are 2 bottles for coffee, and I asked the house-keeper for  an extra bottle or so as we booked in (she was finishing off with her cleaning).  She brought us about 4 bottles!  When I returned from the first excursion later there were even MORE bottles!  I just liked the look of them: Kampala 003 imagesCAWWC28N

Like little soldiers, guarding the gut from bad hydro-bacteria! 

I managed to find a little place in a basement bazaar that sells knitting needles!  They are pricey, and there is not a great range of sizes, but there is evidence of needles available in the country!  A lady offered to purchase  for me in the future and send along with a courier when I need more, as Kampala is an outing that needs great planning and the area (Kiyembe market) is bizarrely crazy!  The traffic is ridiculous, the streets crowded with every sort of pedestrian and vehicle possible and parking is impossible.   The  shop owner also had some needles that will do for working and finishing off projects, so our ladies can be just a bit more equipped.    Ah!  It feels so good to come across an unexpected blessing along the way.

We did some shopping for groceries we cannot find in Mbale and stopped for a treat that Kampala offers so well.  Good African Coffee shops make SUPERB cappuccinos – so creamy and the Ugandan coffee used is magnifique!  it is finished off so well too – you have gotta try this out one day!

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Unfortunately somewhere between the trip home and a piece of cheese for supper my gut reacted violently and the night was spent hovering over a white bowl.  I am lying in bed to write this… and I so wish to be up replanting seedlings, finishing my latest art work, preparing lessons for next week… But darling Sarah has just brought me the newspaper and I will try to regain my energy to do all the fun things tomorrow. 

Knit one, teach one then repeat two together

12 07 2011

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So, how ARE those classes coming along?  With much uncertainty, clinging to God and the thrill of teaching in my blood I jumped into the tasks of this week.  Things change from day to day, and yesterday I began helping Mariam. A little of her story, from what I could figure is this: Mariam’s mom passed away when she was about 3. Her father sort of took her but Ugandan men alone are not considered great fathers.  I worked out that she got caught up in the war turmoil around new political leadership when she was young and was taken from the west of the country to the east. She has no idea of siblings, does not know her birthdate or when she started school.  When I saw Mariam’s entry level-indicator quiz, I realized that there were big difficulties: I guess that she is dyslexic and has a few other issues. Mariam says she stopped school in about grade 3 – I am guessing that till that point she had been teased and tormented and that her education experience did not relieve the trauma of her life experience until then.

We now have a few personal lessons a week, just Mariam and me, and Sarah for some translation help.  I have never trained for remedial ed nor for elementary ed, but that is what I am trying to apply with Mariam. We have started with one letter a day, and Mariam’s face lights up when she is able to write down what I ask. We are trying to use as much difference in her writing experience, so are chalking up the driveway, fingering the letters into the garden and writing in the air. 

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We have informed the helpers here of her needs and it seems like everyone is rooting for her – a little unusual in a land where learning differences don’t induce much sympathy.

Yesterday Titus-the-terrific thought we had been invaded, perhaps by strange alien creatures. We forgot to tell the workers we were taking the lawnmower to one of the other houses. When Titus got something out of the garage later he noticed the absence of the mower, the presence of strange signs on the paving and was totally confused – had some-one left strange messages in explaining the theft?  ^_^

After a successful English lesson with the group yesterday the ladies were buzzing at the success of how far they had come in knitting.  I looked at the projects and am so encouraged to see that they have been trying hard to teach themselves over the weekend.  I think they get more done without me – we started on a pattern for baby shoes today, a simple garter stitch item, and it took ages to get somewhere. Many had to pull out and redo rows over and over.  So I left the pattern in their hand and my example copy with them – it will be fun to see what they have achieved by next week! 

Their concentration and commitment continue to encourage me.

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I love how organically the babies fit into the classes – today there were 3.  Mommies breast-feed while still knitting… or the little ones sleep on the floor, or if they get niggly Karen picks them up and enjoys some great baby cuddles… Aawwww.

Pray for Alice, here on the right – she struggles to fit in a little and literacy is not easy for her.


We are heading out to Kampala for a few days, so we’ll let you know of the big shiny city when we return.