A Travellerspoint blog

Visiting Felix (Feb 17)

sunny 34 °C
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At half past eight on Friday morning we were collected for our trip to the Amuru region. We decided to bring the van as well, as there were quite a few people travelling. First it was off to the Gulu office, where we met a few people from the previous night. Samuel joined us and we went to the Women’s Protection Centre, where Jennifer gave a presentation about the work they do there. Extremely impressive! We were a bit taken aback at the type of cases they deal with, the majority of which are cases of child sexual abuse. The building itself is very well organised. There is a reception area, counselling rooms, offices for the staff and on the other side of the building there is an ablution block, accommodation for women and children, and a children’s play area. Security is high.
It was then time to start our trip west. The road turned out to be under construction. Not a problem for the people in the Action Aid car, but much less pleasant for Padraig and Samuel, travelling in the van. Rumble strips in the road are one thing, but more than 5 km of it? We won’t mention the dust. Suffice it to say that Samuel’s shirt was a brilliant white earlier that morning and by the time we stopped at the community office in Nwoya it had turned pink! In Nwoya we picked up Julius who gave a presentation about the work he and his team do in the local communities. From here it was on to visit Felix and his family. When we turned off the road for the last stretch we were met by singing, dancing and shouting women and children, who ran beside the vehicles until we got to our destination. Everyone wanted to shake hands and welcome us! Finally we saw a little boy (well, small for his age) holding up two picture frames with the photos that we had sent him over the years. His father was right there and fortunately spoke some English. There were chairs for us and Felix’s family and we got a chance to have a bit of a chat. Felix is quite small for his age. He is nearly 14, but looks more like 8 or 9. He seems to have been involved in an accident a while ago (motorbike) and had broken his arm. It did not look as if the arm had set properly. There were also a number of open wounds on one of his legs… Not great in a dusty environment! There was a big spread laid on for us: chicken, beef, goat, rice and sweet potatoes. Felix and his family then showed us their house, after evicting about 20 boys and girls having their dinner inside! I always thought that a circle of huts meant a village, but that is not the case. It is usually a family group. A hut for cooking, a hut for the parents and a number of huts for the children. In Felix’s case, his father had three wives (one of them passed away 4 years ago) and there are 21 children in all. In the parents’ hut, Padraig got to sit on the father’s stool, and I got to share a mat with Felix’s mother. Gifts were exchanged and I am happy to say that Felix seemed very pleased with the quilt I made him. It won’t stay clean for long, but it will give him a bit of comfort hopefully.
We said our goodbyes and went on to the “Reflection Group” in the next community. More singing, more dancing, more handshaking… We introduced ourselves and when I mentioned that I was Padraig’s only wife, there was no shortage of offers (and giggles)… The community assembled then gave testimony about what the help of Action Aid had meant to them. Some were given goats, some were given cows, some were given oxen, and all this had improved their lives enormously. It was then time to eat again. Sure, it was only an hour since our last meal! But we didn’t want to insult anyone and did our best!
After that it was back to the vehicles for the trip back to Gulu and our . David said he would organise a snack for when we got there. Snack indeed! It turned out to be another meal!
We gave a short overview of everything we had seen and heard that day, especially our concerns for Felix’s medical needs. It had been a very busy and full day and I suppose it will take us a while to process it all.
It was a pleasure and a privilege meeting all the Ugandan Action Aid workers and we feel that we now have friends in Uganda as well! We will no doubt keep in touch.

Posted by Tulip1945 07:11 Archived in Uganda Comments (2)

Mad dogs and Irishmen… (Feb 16)

sunny 33 °C
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Our second day in Gulu was a relaxed one. I sat by the pool and did some embroidery and Padraig took de pc to a quiet place to do some work… We went for a walk around the town at the hottest time of the day of course, without bringing even a small bottle of water…
In the afternoon I sat by the pool with my embroidery and Padraig did some work.
We were collected around 7 o'clock by the Gulu Action Aid people, who brought us to the Dove's Nest for dinner with the staff of the Gulu cluster office. Everyone introduced themselves and told a little about the work they do with Action Aid. There was Samuel, who works as a community officer with Reflection Groups in the Nwoya district, Josephine, who runs the Women's Protection Centre in Amuru, Jennifer, who runs the Women's Protection Centre in Gulu, Sheila, who runs the sponsorship programme from the office in Kampala, David, who is in charge of the Gulu office, Albert, Godfrey, Dennis the driver, and two interns (volunteers) from Denmark. If I have forgotten anyone, please forgive me. It was a lot to take in and it was to dark to make notes...
After a lovely dinner, we were driven back to the hotel to have a rest and get ready for an early start the next morning.

Posted by Tulip1945 07:01 Archived in Uganda Comments (1)

Soroti to Gulu

Via Lira

sunny 37 °C
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The plan was to head for Lira, but we had such an early start and made such good time that we arrived there before noon. We had a walk around town, got some passion fruit (yummie) and some bread and had a leisurely picnic. Padraig was in good form, so we decided to try and make it to Gulu that day. It was only another 120km and it was 2 o'clock. It would give us a day without travel to chill out. The road through this part of Uganda led us through a lot of swamps. There were groups of young men on the side of the road, spears on their backs, heading into the swamps. No idea what they were trying to catch there. Fish? Frogs?
We had been in touch with Action Aid in Kampala by text message, but had no Internet. We had asked to recommend us a place to stay, but had not heard anything by the time we arrived in Gulu around 4. Tracks4Africa gave a few possibilities, as did TripAdvisor, so we headed for the Acholi Inn, just outside town. We checked in to a "suite" for the price of a room, because we were staying more than one night. The place is a bit spread out, the usual building works are going on, but the staff are lovely and there is a nice pool (strange steps and very hard to get into for a woman of my advanced years), but I managed with Padraig's help. Padraig swam and I tried to swim to the accompaniment of religious music. Good for the body and good for the soul! The restaurant was happy to serve food anywhere, so, after a shower, we decided to eat poolside. Lovely food again, although it is strange to see a salad without any type of lettuce present. Salads are mainly made up of very finely shredded cabbage. The night was balmy, so we hung around for a while, chatting to the lads that looked after us : David and Kenneth. They told us a lot about life in Uganda and it was an education! We headed for a lovely big and comfortable bed around midnight.

Posted by Tulip1945 22:50 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

Tororo to Soroti

First impressions

sunny 35 °C
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After doing the usual checks on the van and stocking up on water, we set out for Soroti. The main difference between Ugandan and Kenyan roads seems to be the density of traffic. No mad mutatas, only the odd one. Most people around towns seem to travel on bikes and mopeds. Roadsides seem a lot cleaner as well. There is some plastic, but nothing like in Kenya. There are roadsigns and markings. When there is a notice of a speed limit, there is also a notice to indicate the end of that zone! What a novelty! Speed bumps before and after villages are very civilised: a few rumble strips and then a manageable bump, that doesn't throw everything in the van around the place. There is a lot of building going on. People seem to make their own bricks and then use them to build roadside shops and a basic house in the middle of a group of neat thatched "rondavels". There are schools and children in uniform walking to and from school everywhere. I feel like a queen, waving back to all of them!
Cattle on the side of the road are a bit skinny (there is a drought), but look contented enough. They happily wander around grazing... Not too many goats and donkeys here, but lots of chickens (now there is free range for you) and we even saw a pig and a few piglets.
When we got to the Soroti Inn, there was an Aids conference on and the place was buzzing. By the time they all left, there were very few people left. There were no camping facilities anywhere, so we checked into a room. Adequate, but the bed turned out to be horrendous! At least we could have a shower, after Padraig fixed the shower head. .. Good Internet however, so we could catch up. Dinner was not bad, but the staff must have gone to my grandfather's school of catering! The moment you put your cutlery down, they rushed in to take your plate away!
We did not sleep very well, so we got up early, had breakfast and were in the petrol station next to the hotel by eight, checked the oil and tyre pressure, got some water and juice and hit the road for Lira.

Posted by Tulip1945 22:15 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

Iten to Tororo

Crossing our first border

semi-overcast 41 °C
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We made excellent time, in spite of all the speed bumps and the lorries (again) on the road. As we could not find anywhere to stay on the Kenyan side of the border we found a place just 10k beyond the border. Thanks to Tony in Cape Town, because our internet kept coming and going and did not get us anywhere. We thought we were early getting to the border, but I had no idea what was in store. Padraig had of course mentioned previous experiences, but still... First of all, they were building a new bridge at the border crossing and that meant everyone had to be diverted. The dust was so bad, that it set off the smoke alarm in the van!
The procedure was as follows: first you get the carnet for the van stamped to verify that it is leaving Kenya. Then you make your way to the Ugandan side, where the carnet gets stamped again for entering Uganda. Our passports are next: stamped out of Kenya and into Uganda (after filling in an immigration form). Visas had already been organised in Dublin thankfully. Then we had to go to a different office to get a form for road tax stamped.
You then take that form to another building altogether to pay the appropriate fee. It was mayhem in that office. Only one window was open, and loads of people queuing up. To make matters worse, some workmen were tiling the half of the floor where people were not standing. Noise and dust again. Interesting though. They use a totally different method from the tilers I have seen work in Europa. Cement is spread out over the area to be tiled, the tile is placed on top and knocked into place with the back of a hammer, then lifted again, water is added to the cement and the tile is placed on top again and put into its final resting place.
By the time Padraig got to the window, it turned out that they did not take Visa or euro. It had to be local currency or dollars. We did not have Ugandan shillings yet, but we had dollars. In the van... After that got sorted, we got the receipt, which we then had to bring back to the road tax lady for another stamp! We were on our way, after almost two hours, we thought. However, the policewoman at the exit wanted to check all the paperwork again and insisted on Padraig "buying her supper". She was the one with the gun, so he did...
We checked into the Rock Castle Hotel in Tororo, where we could put the van on the grass behind the hotel. This took another 4 wheel drive through a building site, but we found a level spot and installed ourselves for the night. We were given the key for a room near the van, where we could use the shower.
After all that we deserved a drink, so Padraig had a cold beer and I had a warm wine. There was no ice... Dinner was interesting, Padraig had fish, tilapia, the size of which could have fed a family! And that was without the rice! I fancied a pizza, but that was a bit of a disappointment. First they announced that they did not have all the ingredients for a pizza Hawaii, so I agreed to do without the cheese. In the end it turned out to be a pizza base, some tomato paste and on top of that a can of pineapple. The juice went on as well, I think, as the whole thing was swimming! Fortunately I was not that hungry so I just ate the pineapple...

Posted by Tulip1945 11:23 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

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