The walk home in the heat and dust has become routine .All sorts of once strange things are familiar .The herd of cattle with their enormous horns tended by the young guys.The jack fruit stall ,the rubbish, goats hens and piglets .
Wait,the tiny piglets are now independent and the goat has now kids.The toddler is coming fowards down the stairs and the papya are ripe .The optimism of the dusty trees has been rewarded by rain .The leaves are greener and the blossoms are out. But most poignant of all is the departure of the swallows three days ago.On their way, heading over the huge desert to Europe .The flowers are blooming there too and it’s time to follow and greet the spring. Thank you,all my new friends and acquaintances and your beautiful country Time has gone and the refrain for the small children’s “see you” is silenced today out of a sad respect for departure ./em>
Uganda has a great deal to offer the world and my wish is that the world would listen to the Ugandan melodies. Melodies of culture, courtesy,medicine, courage.Generosity, patience (but not fast enough) hope,love and faith. And the rarer irritants that go deep deep deep, metamorphose to training tools and transform.
The church of England offers training for lay ministry and time for reflection outside the usual.Uganda is a few thousand miles outside the usual but I owe huge thanks to my mentors of vision whose gaze reaches beyond a diocese in order to help the diocese. A reader in the church doesn’t just read and the Christian gospel is not geographically bound.
The church I am attached to knows how to praise, it knows how to suffer and it knows how to fight with the gentleness of Christ. It is hard to know each tiny drop that makes the flood, but each plays it’s part. It is humbling and empowering
to visit the papyrus reed churches,the church meeting under a tree and the new churches starting.
And the opportunity is great to meet and talk with all the variety of humankind that is offered. From being given the pulpit on International Women’s Day, to the counselling of children,from the pulpit on Ugandan TV to helping the sick children and their parents privilege is too small a word.
So sharing belief is a great unifier of values and desires, direction and understanding. Ugandan fellow followers of Christ teaching me and shining as bright stars with his love in this world.
Just waiting, just waiting.The sun is dropping quickly in the sky, the dusk will come and suddenly the darkness. This is the time when the edge of the sun’s power is slightly chipped away.The rinsing of sticky hands and face can be a little less frequent. The light slants and shadows appear.
In the town, the pace of traffic slows and the pace of people powers up the commerce. It’s a time of special change in an evening hour. I love it, but today it’s just a little bit more precious.
The air is gently moving as it cools slowly by ten degrees or so. 34 degrees to 24. Maybe it will dip to 22 tonight with slight dew fall in the morning. But the air is restful as it slightly rustles the leaves.It’s cooling is gentle and relaxing and a longing to live longer in this hairdryer warm world stirs.Mindfulness of moments is acute tonight.
The dogs bark backwards and forwards and the cockrel mutters a quiet goodnight. The loudspeakers in town a mile away are background beat and the frogs croak in the ditch. Crickets fidget in unity and the silent lizard scales the wall.
Power is solar tonight and water is a little bit short.The cooking develops on the outdoor stove and the toddler gives exhaustion cries.
The food is delicious and everyone is sleepy. The call of the lead singer rouses the household to evening prayer and the melodies of praise gently envelop the house and all who dwell here.
I don’t want the intrusion of a mosquito net but spray it anyway and surrender to it’s protection. Did I remember my anti malarial today?
And now, passed midnight this world is quieter and the evening flight to Europe, I assume, has flown overhead as the lone reminder of air travel.
Time to sleep before the jolt of tomorrow.
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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
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.
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.