Animal Harm

It’s not much good pretending that we are all the same in one culture at loving or loathing or using animals…or even eating animals. So cross cultural animal lovers may not hold the same things dear. Adam was told to ‘ rule over the  fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground ‘ interpretated in a variety of ways.

Fish. Fish here are magnificent, very large and delicious to eat.We can cross culturally agree on that. Fresh telapia from Lake Victoria, believe me,they are good. Very good.

And then there are the useful creatures. Goats tethered on the edge of the rubbish with piglets as their playmates.Scrummaging around for rubbishey nutrients for meat and milk production.Smuggling contaminants into the food chain unawares. And the masculinity of cockrels competing to be the  first dawn crier, before impregnating any passing she hen.The idea that these creatures can be pets is certainly alien here.Chicken, ducks and a goose have all been given to my host as gifts, tied at the legs and incidental overheating passengers in the hot bumpy car.They take a trip to a few days of freedom before filling the cooking pot.Just enough time to taunt the chained guard dogs with their day time freedom.Sentimentality,nay, even science about the psychological welfare of the useful beasts is an alien concept here.

So what of the speeding swifts who have cemented the patio cornice, raised their young there and have just departed for Europe. Fantastic catchers of mosquitoes, not differentiatiing between those carrying malaria and those which do not.Eating the other flying nuisances and for me a great asset. Perhaps I’ve persuaded my host not to fumigate the nest or perhaps they have just emigrated in time.

So as a Muzungu, I stand on the side of meat eating, fish loving carnivore with a backward glance at my food sources welfare in life.

But, help me with this one, please. Health theives and destroyers of equipment why would there be a laissez faire tolerance of rats? Not from uneducated or children only but from graduates who care about health,who even treat disease. Local rat traps are sticky pads that keep the beast alive until human comes and kills it…or,unbelievably sets it free again! So cultural differences have their limits.Right here.

No, Mr Ratty and Mrs Ratty and baby Ratties. GO GO GO…. I’ve had new equipment delivered you are dead dead dead. No Trespassing. Be banished! 

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Big Nipper, I love you.

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International Women

I love this place. I love the people. This is such a good experience. OK, sorry if  I  make you feel left out, but it is great.
There’s so often the unexpected and the   slightly confusing breaking out into very special.
Yesterday was such a day.
International Women’s Day and a real treat to celebrate women.

It was special to have a 10 minute  talk on IWD  from the front of church. A speech to honour and thank women in a patriarchal society. A  speech to remind us that so much of women’s work goes unpaid  and often unrecognised. Not a militant speech but one celebrating difference but asking for women to be recognised. 80% of the farm produce in this land of agriculture is done by women. Staggering figures. And  all that water carrying…. Really hard work is the name of  the game here. And as I  write,  my today washed clothes are delivered to my room, clean dry and ironed. No washing machines here.
And then later the special meeting after church for those  who had saved money over the year.My Luganda is stuck on page two of the language book so understood a short gathering from translation but here that means 3 hours or there abouts. I didn’t stay for all of it but it was in fact a community micro finance project run by the ladies of the church. People of different faiths and no faith who had saved money over the year and the members who had borrowed to expand or start a business. It  was all so local and so friendly and so successful. More chickens,more eggs, more income and loans repaid to people known to the borrower. And what I loves was that the women had quietly started it and men and women were part of it, blessing the community. It seemed so obvious but it had taken courage and determination of a special lady to start it. It’s  these moments of ‘wow’ in the unexpected places that make me love these people. Thank you ladies. You are a talented industrious group that can teach me a lot.

Crushed Flowers Blooming

Mankind.Gifted in resilience .

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 .

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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 .

Dust to Dust

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
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One way street ..

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 .

Patchwork, bicycling and dolls

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Nile horses and all sorts of others of God’s Creation

Today was a day of celebration.A celebration of Gods beautiful creation.

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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 .

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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.