I’ve written very little about any medical work here Confidentiality trumps web logging .Suffice it to say that if you work closely with people there is a wealth of very funny incidents .Add in a language difference and the laughter can be loud.Only in private conversation .
There is also a mountain of sadness even tragedy .Wherever it is,it’s hard to look at youngsters crushed with a burden . The centre and school care for many such students .No real difference here in some stresses,work pressure ,family pressure ,past abuse,poverty .The illnesses are different .Malaria ,typhoid,more respiratory illness in the dusty dry season.Orphans robbed of parents by HIV. Some children as carers .
Young precious lives need the care of immunisation as their health and development hang in the balance. But I am inspired by these crushed flower children .I see fresh blooming in so many of them.The silent bravery emerging from deep wounds.Glimpses of promise ,faith ,hope,love.There is an environment of encouragement ,challenge and empowering love. Everyone of us gets mired in challenge and problems ,sometimes foolishly forgetting to be expecting the unexpected.We like patterns of order and predictability but crushing can come and jolt us. At those times remember the crushed flower children blooming again and the medicine of faith hope and love .
The catch at the back of my throat has gone now.The rainy season has started and the air is clearer.About once a week or may twice there is a real downpour. Red dust turning to mud,Wellington boot mud. The trickling drain turned into a torrent of stones, plastic, paper, rubbish and rainwater.
The dust is the everyday and the mud is the sometimes. And the dust makes me ponder. What is the secret art of living with dust? How do people look so smart and shiny in such a dusty world? The occasional Westerners I meet are a scruffy sight by and large.Dress codes broken through ignorance or heat,but also lack of observation and respect.Choosing comfort over dignified honour of another’s country code. Ignorant of the slovenliness. Ignorant of the low standards of the casual.Applauding the non ironed look.Yes, I ‘m attached to the scruffy Westerner set with crumples and dusty shoes… Always.. Almost.
White shirt,smart tie,smart suit and a ride on a Boda Boda and still the rural pastor looks dignified and smart and mastered the dusting down discretely and immediately.
And there’s the sweeping. No Mr Dyson here.Small children learn the art of stick bundle sweeping at an early age and beat me at it,in effectiveness. And still the dust keeps coming, a thin red shimmer on all but the newly polished cars in Kampala, grubbying the children at play, inhabiting the lungs of the tiny the old and all in between, shaming the water rinsing my hair.
The wet wipe is a great leveller. Red red dust off everyone
It’s a massive privilege to give.We all know that.It’s the smile on the receivers face,it’s the satisfaction of being good.It’s the giving of wings to baggage that can land at the point of need.It’s joyful .
But giving needs to avoid power, control,giver knows best ,giver knows how gift should be managed,giver is now superior .
I brought some things to Uganda .I have received far more, from a generous dignified people. Learning about my neighbour , learning resilience ,deepening understanding ,and stretching faith,catching overflowing joy and seeing extreme poverty welling up in rich generosity . This is no one way street ,Europe ,but a flood of wisdom ,grace and kindness for those who notice Uganda. Thank you to all I meet .
I’m not a baggage handler but if I was I’m sure there’d be times when I’d wonder what all the baggage was about.Where it’s going ,who is it for ? How necessary is it? Wherever people travel they like to take a little bit of home with them.To bring and take back.Clothes, toothpaste ,a book ,shoes, although in most countries its easy to buy shampoo and toothpaste. Security is an important comfort of life.Look how well brands pander to people’s insecurity .They say ‘You know me.You can trust me .And you don’t need to take risk to discover the new and the local.You don’t need to support the strange or the stranger .I’m the only one of quality ” Quite a boring way to follow with loyal blindness into the uniformity of globalisation. The security of baggage and brands can be a trap of restricted experience and a lie that strange is inferior . But not all baggage is predictable. And those pioneering the work I have joined in with had great plans of delivering gifts from a variety of sources. If you have read the earlier blog you will remember the bicycle luggage ,but I’ve not yet mentioned the dolls or the clothes or the beautiful quilts.Not my gifts, but the generosity of people who know who their neighbour is and responded . And so I share with you a little of the distribution of baggage. It emerged as generous gifts from the kindness of strangers ,reaching the surprised on floodwater of joy. We’ve taken some time to deliver assessing need and suitability not wanting to be provoking envy.
A very big thank you from this family whose life will be transformed by simple transport of a bicycle .Thank you to a colleague .A shock presentation of great happiness .Thank you for letting me experience this.
And eight little people being blessed by eight magnificent hand knitted dolls ..a few more to distribute amongst children who have recovered from malaria or other sickness. Massive smiles on tiny faces and mothers touched deeply by generosity Thank you.
What beautiful quilts! The skill in design and execution is tremendous and these have been for little people bringing comfort in poverty .Thank you.Thank you. The generosity of others has had profound effects .It is a humbling privilege to be a luggage lady,fellow staff have seen professional care and dedication in the givers they may never meet .The transitory handover gave all round intense pleasure running into lasting practicality and deep experiences of long term gratitude. Cycling,sowing ,knitting or whatever your baggage, may it rise out of the dull ,ripple past your security to create extraordinary generosity.
Today was a day of celebration.A celebration of Gods beautiful creation.
Dawn crossing the river Nile and meeting hippopotamus,and more hippos .No wonder the German name is Nile Horse.These wonderful creatures abide in abundance here. It was a day for observing . Safari vans are strange environments and need a strong team of lookouts.Only the human will pose and we wanted to observe and be surprised by the diversity of nature.But one surprise was the human diversity.The keen ‘through the camera lens ‘spotter, the silent,the experienced and the sleepy snoozers,were all part of our team.I wanted uniformity of lookouts but humans offer diversity too and it made no difference to a wonderful stage of wild creatures who did not disappoint.Almost too many to mention, all things bright and beautiful ,strange and majestic ,the Lord God made them all.Crocodile and elephants,leopard and hyena,fish and kingfishers,warthogs and monkeys ,cliffs and waterfalls. Some humans wondered why the diversity,some explained ‘survival of the fittest’ .Diversity of worldview and lack of thought of whom to praise for the staggering beauty of trim ,fit,birds and animals was apparent in our diverse humans. Species watching and mining out worldview and.sharing our own are part of our daily task in communication.We laughed together over supper in the evening at our own need for a little bit of people watching.
But back to the day of nature .
And the mighty Nile reduced to a gushing waterfall width of seven metres before spreading to the descending majestic waters lined by papyrus reeds of Ancient Egypt.
And the flies.Barely a bother today but a great contributor to the wealth of today.After Mr and Mrs Baker ,discovered the falls for the Royal Geographic Society,it was not long before the helpful locals were struck down by Sleeping sickness .Some were eventually evacuated from the area and some were left to die. With the humans reduced to exiles the animals could flourish and a game reserve and national park was formed. The carrier of disease was the Tstse fly . We owe the abundance of Gods creation in part, to activity of the fly. As I write I can hear a fly .Do not underestimate the smallest of creatures or dismiss the stranger who’s human.
It’s Mr and Mrs this week,with work turning to holiday and visits to Albert Nile and Victoria Nile,Lake Victoria and Lake Albert. It’s strange dipping into tourist role and seeing other Muzungos.It’s great having even a short spouse sharing time.So we passed sugar cane and papaya,tea and papyrus growing commercially and limiting the preserved rainforest. Commercial necessity giving a nod to nature.
And then we entered tourist world.A strange dance of charm and mistrust,generosity and disappointment, meanness and ‘who cares ? It’s a holiday’ and elation and disbelief. Strangers become contract partners. The luggage a supposition is that the last person looking vaguely like this one has already set the unbreakable rules of engagement. And as that happens a strange bilateral hint of unspoken dissatisfaction smoulders. Unspoken lest the tourist has suspicions aroused ,lest the tourist closes the wallet, less the tourist spoils the holiday atmosphere,less the local doesn’t deliver. But these sentiments were barely a factor in our paddle to Jinja’s source of the Nile .We were treated to sights of otter,large lizards,kingfishers,monkeys,fish and a myriad of colourful birds. They circle the bubbling water that breaks out of the ground and kisses the outlet of Lake Victoria on it’s way to make power.Power,after tourism as the second,no,third after fishing, use of the Nile waters before it’s many life giving roles on it’s 4000 mile journey. And so the Victoria Nile parts the silt and the rocks and thunders down into Lake Albert.And tourism embraces the narrowest Nile and the wonder of tourists pays respect to the possession of nature. And in the relaxation camp ,maybe a hippo or a warthog will come by and add value to the moment of the tourist.Random bonanza for a cluster of foreign passer bys and justifying the special Muzungo prices.No exchange for nature that just passes by.Our forests are cleared ,our mountains are bare and our nature is squeezed. May the conservation work of nature flourish wherever it is and the tariffs paid back into nature.The love and the loathing of tourism.
To my generation who don’t know Uganda,Entebbe means one thing. Days of tension,anguish ,heat and dehydration and then the storming of the hijacked plane on the runway by Israel.It was a brutal week in a land being schooled in brutality.
But Uganda has moved a long way under the current leadership and brutality is not its voice and the Lords resistance army’s active terror is diminished. Entebbe may still mean airport,but it means connections,and travel,modernity and progress.A new connecting road to Kampala is being built. But until then, the route is a dodge game of gap grabbing drivers of cars,minibuses,trucks,motorbikes,bicycles ,interspersed with risk taking pedestrians and impatient in-line skaters.Yes ,rollerbladers,squeezing the gaps.
So many capital cities catch up with ‘How to reach the airport’ years after the cumulative delay time can be measured in decades. So collecting at Entebbe twice in 24 hours was a special call on patience. Two carefully co ordinated arrivals expected on the same plane were thwarted by strength of wind in Yeadon and arrival times were shifted to a separation of 11 hours. The very early second start for Entebbe was almost featureless,but not the first call out at 7 pm. The traffic flow,full of disbelief and absent risk aversion included an inner circle of roundabout motorcyclists in the dark travelling in opposite flow to the main traffic.As a choreographed piece of theatre it may have looked wonderful,but the lights on the vehicles were random and the jerky braking of late see-ers spoilt the ballet .And anyway the in line skater proved unpredictable. Then the stops.Stop. And the motorcycles moving as if they were plaiting threads around the stationery vehicles. And the fuel consumption on standing still and the concentration needed but teased by the texting taxi driver. It was horrible and I don’t want to write anymore about it. Well done,my drivers,you were superb.
I couldn’t let last Saturday go by without a note on the blog. Being a foreigner at a celebration always heightens the senses ,as the subtle understood-by-the -locals conventions trip you up . I was called upon to represent all the UK supporters and tripped arrogantly forgetting the interpreter.But the level of education in English is high and forgiveness and gentleness flow in abundance here.
It really was an extraordinary day Extra Ordinary in the sense that ordinary things and ordinary people achieved extra things and became extra special.Faith grasped the hand of extra ordinary love and extraordinary hope. Seven hundred or was it eight hundred were fed and the school children had extra and the left over drinks are now lazing in the cool fridge. The event was superb,celebratory,happy,relaxed,joyful,peaceful and so colourful.Polished shoes and shiny hair ,pressed suits and the long celebratory dresses of a Sunday Best mingled with dust free school uniforms .And a retired clergyman looked immaculate after a twenty mile journey on the back of a BodaBoda(motorbike) on dust roads.Living with dust is an art.
It was called a consecration of a Bishop….he also had a big seat but it wasn’t called a throne.And the mitre and the crook were all in place as symbols of shepherding the people of God. And after that a new team of pastors were ordained ,twenty in total.Men and women who share the gospel with the poor in the villages and in the towns.People who know their livelihood will be lacking numerous high value shilling notes .They know their Christian calling and they learn from their Bishop that financial wealth is dwarfed by spiritual satisfaction and fulfilment.The poor will always be with us . And that was part of the extraordinary.That from a congregation of the not so well off ,the generosity flowed to provide food,music, hospitality,air fare, renovations and laughter so that the poor could enjoy it,the government ministers could worship,the old and the babies embrace and the military and the civilian dance together in a loud hallelujah ..Ugandan style .
Busy,busy busy. Everyone is busy.Painting plastering polishing, and still planning. Tomorrow is a very important day as the new Bishop is consecrated. This will be my fourth celebration of a new Bishop in under a year. Not York Minster this time, but under canvas and the open skies of Uganda. And this time, I am very much in on the celebration preparation as my Anglican trained host is to be consecrated. With so many new and vibrant churches,this great teacher has been asked to shepherd the pastors.
Instead of the cathedral, the campus here will be the site of worship. As it is each Sunday. Any tidying and improvements will be lasting for the school church community here. But I have to stand back a little bit and admire the paced coolness of last minutedness ,as the preparation has had to match the budget and the income comes in at the very last minute. It’s definitely an African new outfit day with smartness paying respect to dignity.Smartness an act of joyful worship to God. I’ve seen the Bishop’s robes, but the mitre will be ready 16 hours before its needed. Priorities lay elsewhere. Uh? Bishop’s crook? Meanwhile I’ve just been out for a lastminute smart new bag.
We expect an amazing day of celebration and worship. Pray with us please.Psalm 23. The Lord is my Shepherd.
If you are a sailor of the seven seas knowing where you are is important. Well, that’s true for landlubbers too. But sailors used the plughole phenomenon for centuries to know if the equator was crossed.Now they tell me the white line across the road is it.
Back to the plughole. Clockwise? The north
Anticlockwise the south
and straight down… Right on the equator
Then people forgot the old skill and then they said it was fairytale. But a real divide, not an artificial East West of Greenwich.