Thursday, 1 October 2009
Thursday, 3 September 2009
Forgive me if this is a little foggy in places. We had a bit of a BBQ party last night at the local Ogilvy office and although we were all perfectly well behaved, the introduction of alcoholic drinks after a week of healthy living has left me a little worse for wear, thankfully its not punishingly hot this morning in Kampala, as i sit on our tiny balcony overlooking the city.
Yesterday morning we left Buikwei, to head back to the city. Over the course of the 5 days that we had spent at the school, we had met a host of kind and generous people who we had bonded with very quickly. We all became very fond of the area and had quickly settled into a Ugandan-style routine, of hard work and simple pleasures. So it was inevitable that leaving was going to be a sad moment.
We said our goodbyes to the builders, who all came to say fairwell, and David the site manager and soon to be teacher, made a small impromptu speech which touched us all. He said "that even though you are not here in person, you will be here in spirit' which is a wonderful testament to the past few days work, and completely clarifies to me how much positive impact the project has already had.
During the drive back to Kampala, we stopped off at a roadside market so a few of us, could purchase some drums. Some of the group had been lucky enough to be taught some basic drumming skill by Joy, the music teacher at the school and suffice to say, they all now think of themselves as the next African Drum Keith Moon. Several drums were purchased, i think the lady who owned the shop had thought that christmas had come early. We now only have to figure out how to get them all back to the UK. I have suggested disguising ourselves as a touring band, but i fear that would be a lost cause.
In Kampala, we briefly stopped at a craft fair, to pick up some gifts and yes, more drums were bought. The craft stalls are all similar, but worth a nose about, though i was the victim of some rather creative maths when receiving my change after one particular purchase. Lunch was ate at the local Nandos and although everyone was ravenous, we all immediately regretted the culinary choice and began to miss Irenes cooking a lot.
We were driven to our new hotel/hostel, which is at the top of the town, near the catherdral, and before we headed out to the Ogilvy office, we were briefly introduced to Justice. Not i hasten to add in the old fashioned terminology, as in "i shall show you the true meaning of Justice", no, Justice is the big cheese behind the IN projects in Africa, and does a tremendous amount of work for the area. He has just returned from Australia the previous day, where he traveled for 3 weeks, giving presentations, meeting schools/business' etc. Time is short and i feel this is becoming a long rambling post so i shall talk about Justice and the projects separately.
Finally, we make it to the BBQ and met David Case and his team. Its a small operation as you can imagine and there clients and work vary hugely from any London or indeed Western offices. There's a few nuggets of interest to mull over regarding African advertising, but i might wait until a later blog to talk turkey. The BBQ and drinks were excellent and it was great to see that the vast majority of the office was populated by local talent, headed up by David and his Creative Director James. The evening went by rapidly, helped no doubt by the Wariga, or War Gin, we were drinking, dangerous on any night, but especially after our extended break.
We returned to the hotel in high spirits and i spent the next 20 minute trying to take night shots of Kampala (see above) with mixed results, but eventually crawled into my, slightly short bed, and tried to black out the intruding light from the corridor,, with an advanced, lycra short headband (don't ask). Sleep was hard to come by, but we have one more day in the city before we head home, so i must away, will ramble on later.
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
It was to be our final day on site, which seems to have come around far too soon., and we were split into 2 teams for morning/afternoon shift work.
We had been invited by the IN team Paul & Tom to visit some of the other families around the area, some of which are less than fortunate and live far below the nominal Ugandan bread line. Many families are without mothers/fathers due to approximately 15% of the population being HIV positive. Other husbands are polygamists, allowing them to have more than 1 wife (some have 3 or 4) which not only means they are absent from their homes a lot, but the multiple partners plays right into the hands of the virulent HIV virus.
I wasn't visiting until the afternoon, so i made my way up to the site with the others. The sun was beating down but thankfully, we had made such an impact on the building over the past 3 days, that there was less hardcore work to be done and mostly included helping to finish the dividing walls and general tidying up of the site.
It was hard work none the less and to emphasise the workload, I've managed to wear a hole in my leather work gloves - you just cant get the quality these days.
In the afternoon, after another stirling lunch, we took it easy until we were bussed around to visit the families that IN sponsor and therefore enable to get to school. We were guided by Peter, a local social worker, who took us via the village into the jungle, where small pockets of people live in small 2/3 house settlements. The life they lead, truly, makes you aware of the difference between us and them. The vast majority of people we met were happy and very welcoming, but the standard of living is vastly different as you would expect. Children (who are lucky enough to afford the $15 a month) have to walk up to an hour and a half to get to school, for 7:30 in the morning.
We were introduced to 8 different families, one specifically that Peter was very proud of who had successfully been sponsored and had just qualified as a primary school teacher, all she needs now is a school, oh, hang on.....
I could go on and on about the kids and how, despite their circumstances are bright happy and enormously charismatic, not to mention beautiful, you could take photos of them all day every day, and all your pics would be great (massive disclaimer).
Its sad that this part of our trip is already over, as we make our way back to Kampala tomorrow. What is brilliant is that David, the site leader, believes the contribution of work from us, has saved them 5 days, and they were able to start pouring the cement pillars today, a full week ahead of schedule. If that doesn't make me feel warm and fuzzy i don't know what will.
Sunday, 30 August 2009
Some people might say that a rest day, directly after the initial work day, is a little, lightweight, and frankly, i would have agreed with you before we actually came out here and did anything. However, we were all blessed that today is Sunday, and we couldn't work today, even if our already calloused hands would let us.
This allowed us to spend the day exploring the surrounding area, which started with a 1 hour rally/bus drive to the nearest town of Jinja. Jinja is home to the source of the River Nile as well as the burial site of Ghandi (though no one could quite explain why, answers on a postcard/email/twitter, much appreciated).
A brief boat trip took us up river, where we able to clamber up onto a small island and from there see the water ripple and bubble as it rose quickly out of the ground beneath. Before the river reached its current height, the source was a spring that would rise several feet out of the ground, now though, if you didn't know where to look, you may miss the swirl and negative currents as the Nile continues to grow.
Post river exploration, was followed immediately by a lunch at a local hotel. On Toby's recommendation, we all ordered a Tilapia fish. They are a local delicacy of these here parts and we were all curious to try the kind of fish you can eat 98% off. "Don't eat the lips" we were told by our guide, which raised several questions of A) whether fish actually have lips & B) Whether other parts of its anatomy such as the eyes, are free game (it is by the way, and is a required taste to say the least).
After a hearty meal, we were whisked off to the Jinja Rapids, which is a true force of nature to behold. We rather Britishly kept our distance from the river edge, apart from a few keen photographers, and watched in disbelief as a young guy threw himself in from the top of the rapids, and rode the river down to the calmer waters, all for a princely sum of 2000 shillings (approximately 60p), only aided by what seemed to be an inflatable yellow ball, which he rode expertly through the rocks. Clearly bonkers.
On our way back, we stopped off at Lugazi Market, which is a fantastic amalgamation of fruit stalls, fish mongers, clothes shops and fridge shops and anything else you may want. We mixed in as best you can when you are clearly white, rich and dripping in camera gear (me especially), but gradually we were welcomed by the vast majority of the town and ventured about to take in the various smells and flavours. Mark experimented with some Yam, which i'm fairly sure he wont be doing again.
As the sun began to set over the town, we made our way back to the hostel to another tasty dinner courtesy of our cook Irene who had worked her magic on a chicken that had been given to us by an appreciative local. You don't get fresher than that, not even at Morrisons.
Saturday, 29 August 2009
Our first full day on the site, has rendered the vast majority of us, utterly shattered. The 9 of us started work at 9am sharp, with mild trepidation that we were simply going to get under foot and generally be the useless 'mzunga; or whiteman.
This theory was quickly despatched as were split into 2 groups and set to work clearing up bricks, organising materials and generally getting stuck in. A few of us were lucky enough to learn some rudimentary brick laying skills. The heat made things particularly tough, especially when i was asked to help collect some more cement, which lived a 10 minute walk away, and required a climb back, up to site, which was exhausting, made worse by the fact that the 15 year old did two turns on the wheelbarrow to my one - i could not hide my envy or mild embarrassment.
We all gradually found our comfort (or non comfort) zone and slogged it out until lunchtime, the highlight of the morning being a small group of very little children, no older than 5/6, joining us to separate and move broken bricks from new. The image of the kids, clambering over piles of rubble, desperately keen to help, is an endearing and lasting one, the video footage and pics are well worth a look, which I shall load up tomorrow (once I've stopped faffing with the photos...).
Lunch was well deserved and some of us decided to enjoy a drumming and dance show, put on by the primary school. Toby and I, returned to the site and helped the remaining workmen, finish off some brick work and helped construct some scaffolding, that would have turned the stomach of any UK health and safety inspector. The work was quick paced and tiring, as the brick layers demanded more cement (delivered up a ladder in 'Wok' like bowls) and additional bricks, that were delicately 'thrown' up to the worker.
By the time 5:30 arrived, i was balancing on some of the aforementioned scaffold, learning to lay bricks, and both Toby and I, felt very chuffed with our work.
As a thank you to the group, the builders offered to take some of us down to the village to watch the Man Utd/Arsenal game. We gathered with most of the male population from the village, in front of a 28" TV, and was in awe of the noise and dancing that surrounded us, when Arsenal scored, i genuinely thought someone had been killed the noise was so shrill, but no, it was but a man, removing his shirt and whooping with joy. Just your standard Saturday night in Buikwe, Uganda.
Friday, 28 August 2009
Its been a long, long day, but ultimately hugely agreeable. The flight from Heathrow left on time and fortunately it wasn't fully booked, meaning more room for people to relax, myself included. Thanks to a combination of the new Star Trek movie and 3 free seats, the flight went very quickly and we were soon landing in Entebbe.
Our group was swiftly guided to our mini-vans for the hour long journey to Kampala, where we changed some of the Queens sterling into Ugandan Shillings. We congratulated ourselves for navigating the Ugandan bank system with a strong coffee at the supermarket, where we also collected some vital provisions, including numerous bottles of Cola and M&M's.
We arrived at the village of Buikwe, where we are staying at the local school and were immediately blown away by the surroundings. The countryside is beautiful and not even the 10 minute thunderstorm could dampen our high, but sleepy spirits.
We were guided around the school by Andrew from International Needs and met some children who were in over the holiday to study for their exams. Further exploration lead us to the site of the new building, which has grown considerably since Toby's last visit, but still requires a lot of hard work to complete, which we will start in earnest tomorrow morning.
After a full and tasty chicken dinner, our post cuisine coffees were disturbed by a sizeable and rather hyperactive bat, who insisted on doing laps of the hostel living room, to which all manner of techniques were employed to catch him including some of the worst 'towel bull fighting' i have witnessed together with Toby trying to verbally encourage the bat out of the room..... which did not work.
The bat is still in here as i write this. I am going to bed and I'm closing the door behind me.
Monday, 24 August 2009
Monday, 3 August 2009
Sunday, 2 August 2009
It was only a week ago that we were huddling from the rain, trying not to spill our 'old rosey' cider on each other. Trowbridge Pump is a brilliant little gathering (well, not quite little) with some fantastic alternative/folk & country bands from all over the place.
Sorry to say i can't remember who this particular band is, but it was fun that much im sure - more picks on my Flickr if you fancy it.
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Tuesday, 28 July 2009
Sunday, 19 July 2009
Thursday, 9 July 2009
Thursday, 2 July 2009
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Post From My iPhone
Tuesday, 31 March 2009
Thursday, 22 January 2009
Tuesday, 20 January 2009
Check out the link for yourself, here.