Thursday, 21 February 2013

Day 3 - African Insanity

Life really is so much harder in Uganda, even for the middle class. What I wouldn't give for running water and a proper shower after the day in the slums. I also have sore muscles from holding myself upright in the car across bad dirt roads and am exhausted from having to be 100% alert all the time to avoid falling in a sewer or something.

Then I think of Musa's emaciated body lying in the dirt and I feel so guilty. It was like a real life World Vision commercial.

I'm so lucky to have been born to parents who wouldn't hesitate to take me to the hospital if I was seriously ill. This morning with breakfast I took a malaria tablet, multivitamin and contraceptive pill - things most people in this country don't have access to. So lucky.

We were asked today to observe a class and were taken to P5, the class of my sponsor kid, Dorothy. Her teacher Robert took us through what we would be doing today - listening and observing but not teaching. Fine by me!!

The teaching style is incredibly different to Western society. It's mostly about repitition and memorisation. Discipline is unstructured and inconsistent with children wandering in and out of the classrooms and random children appearing about the school grounds. At one point Dorothy leaned on the teacher's desk and was told off for it. 30 mins later the same behaviour was not remarked on.

Some of the students desk share and the class takes turns copying from a few text books. One big difference I noticed was in individual attention. During a reading class the students all read together without anyone being picked out to read individually. When the teacher would set the students questions he would wander from the room and leave them to it.

Today the class had to submit applications for various roles such as Head Boy, Head Girl, Head of Games, Sanitation Leader and Time Keeper. Dorothy submitted hers for Food Manager. This means at lunch time she will serve food to the rest of her class. Kind of ironic as she has been refusing to go eat her porridge whenever I am around as she wants to spend as much time as possible with me.

I am being very careful in my interactions with her. She has not had much kindness in her life, particularly not from women. I don't want her to see me as a mother figure and want to make sure to minimise the impact of my leaving again.

The classroom has a bunch of newspaper clippings on the wall from a previous project. I was encouraged to see a poster campaigning for smaller families but confused to see a newspaper clipping about a UK businessman and his Ugandan prostitute.

After the morning session I left Leckie at the school and went on foot with Israel and another volunteer to meet some of the families in the local area. It's been really hot today and I was struggling a little. One of the dirt tracks we took was very compacted with loose gravel. As I moved out of the way of an approaching motorbike I slipped on the gravel, fell and cut my leg. What is we me doing that in this country?! So now I have a nice assortment of cuts and scrapes to try to keep clean.

The first family we saw were a real success story. They had been embroiled in a legal battle over land and had had to sell their cow to pay for a lawyer. They won their case though and were able to keep their land which they use for big farming, generating income from this. Amusingly, when the father was telling us about his children he couldn't remember the name of his youngest daughter. That's Ugandan fathering for you!

The second family live in a lovely house but are now struggling as both parents have died. The aunties have moved in to care for the children but cannot afford school fees. They are seeking sponsorship for 2 children so that they can continue at Jolly Mercy.

Along the way I got an update from Israel on Musa. After waiting 5 hours at Mulago, Aisha (his mother) gave up and took him to a private clinic. I couldn't believe this. 5 hours is no a long time to wait for hospital admission, even by Western standards. Also, the nurse at Katalemwa Rehabilitation Centre had said specifically that he should not go to a clinic and really needed to be admitted to hospital. It was reiterated to Aisha that she would have to pay if she did this but she went anyway. Yet again it seems that Aisha's time is more important than Musa's health. Clearly nothing we said yesterday sunk in.

When I returned to the school I found Leckie teaching a class a math lesson by himself. Apparently the teacher had just wandered out a couple of hours ago and not returned. It was cool to get to act as teaching assistant, give some individual attention band make sure they really understood the reasons behind the answers.

At lunch the main focus was my hair. The kids laughed at my white scalp, touched my hair, told me over and over how soft it was and one child wanted to eat it...

After lunch Leckie and I headed into Kampala as we really needed to change some money and get a SIM. It had been such a hot day so we were so happy when the storm started. That happiness soon faded when we realised that rain in Kampala equals traffic chaos.

Waiting at the shared taxi stop the scenes we witnessed were unbelievable. As the cars approached people in business suits would begin pressing against the doors, pushing, pulling and even punching to get their seat in the taxi. After watching this for some time we decided that this was no game for a m'zungu and shamefully went in search of a private taxi. At 10 times to cost of a shared taxi it came in at about £11.

The private taxi was in intself an experience. We ended up in a traffic jam in the literal sense of the word - company cars had tried to move in so many directions that there was no way forward for anyone. People had to get out and push the cars around to untangle the mess. The rest if the trip home consisted of erratic driving, shouting in Luganda, rubbish dirt roads and one cry of "why my friend?!". After having totally ripped us off the driver had a the hide to ask for 'soda money'. We pretended not to understand.

After a slippy, muddy, torchlit walk up the driveway we finally arrived home and I looked at my phone to see CALM staff had worriedly been phoning after reports we hadn't returned home when expected. Whoops!

With the power out we ate dinner by candlelight, I resigned myself to not washing my hair for another day and turned in.

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