These are hot dry days in Rukungiri. The rains left us nearly a month ago. My tank had a leak so empty but Edward has been picking jerrycans of water for me. Still I've cut down to washing hair and body is half a bowl of water and to flushing once per day! Electricity is also intermittent but thankfully has been mostly on this week - only stopping to disturb the breadmaker.
It's nearly 4 weeks until I come home so four and a half months have passed since I arrived. I've not blogged for a long time - forgive me!
Since I last blogged we've had a month of chilli buying, punctuated by a trip to Kampala to pick up my cousin Helen, a short survey in Kanungu district for the May orthopaedic camp, an exhausting quick trip to Kampala with Warren and Nelson to take up the chilli harvest (photo above) and then at the beginning of June we started a month of wide surveys getting to all deep into all rural areas in Kanungu and Rukungiri to register new and reassess known disabled children.
The trip in Kampala at the end of May to pick up my cousin was a particularly difficult time. On the journey up on the Monday morning I learnt that her dad, who has had cancer of the blood for many years, had really taken a turn for the worse and was in hospital. She cancelled her flight and was initially thinking of rebooking for a weekend flight but as the days went on his situation was still that she could not leave him. I was nearly ready to just get on a flight back home to be with her - having luckily my passport with me for extending my visa and a few clothes - but in the end people rallied round and she was well supported. That week, I truly felt the wonderful friendship of Gloria who I stay with in Kampala, she really was there during this time and we even made the most of the extra time together by going to the beach at Entebbe on the shore of Lake Victoria. With Gloria's sisters and friend Norma we ate fish, danced to the beach music and swam towards (but not quite reaching!) Tanzania.
Coming back to Rukungiri after that week was unsettling and even just the 7 hour dusty journey back wiped me out. But a few days later I was back into Rukungiri life and feeling again at home. 'Home' life generally consists of cooking and playing games with my Peace Corps neighbour Asher and now his sister Naomi, wondering up the hill to see my friends Lyn and David for some home-made biscuits and of course the warm greetings of many friends who work at the Diocese in the various departments (Water, Mosaic orphans, finance, cathedral, etc.).
Without a TV I have got through many books. Highlights have been:
* Tropical Fish by Doreen Baingana - a Ugandan writer - book given to me by Ellie who visited me on my birthday - thanks Ellie it was great!
* Season of Blood - a Rwandan Journey by BBC's Feargal Keane - brilliant insight into the Rwandan genocide in a really down-to-earth, no frills, 'just sort of wondered out of the pub and into a genocide shock'-style of narration
* Festo Kivengere, biography by Anne Combes - story of an international evangelist who started life attending a school just metres from where I'm staying - really has given me an insight into the history of Uganda from 1920s to 1980s including how so many people became Christians - and this wasn't just through missionaries - it was really a realisation by the people from the people: witch doctors confessed their tricks, people paid back money they had taken from another, it was a revolution that lasted for decades, and such a different (especially shorter) history of Christianity to ours in the UK of centuries of wars, burning Catholics and recently of disillusionment.
There is tonnes I could write about the work we've been doing and especially I have taken many pictures and lots of video footage which I hope to turn into some short films. But I'll write more on the charity's blog: www.chillichildren.blogspot.com
Yesterday we had a great day that I must mention as we received items from the UK sent over by friends and family hearing my pleas. We've got 4 new phones for the team who've been surviving on recharging batteries every few hours, also 3 secondhand phones, a 2ndhand laptop for Nelson who is amazed that it doesn't switch off when the electricity goes off, and a box of 141 glasses frames from Eye Emporium in Bethnal Green - my lovely opticians - who saved them up including some with prescription lenses and via Libby, Adam, Martin, Helen, Tim and finally Ruth they arrived with us here! There was much fun trying them on! (See Generous and I on the right - well how else are we going to keep amused when the others are out for the day on survey?) Seriously we're only thinking of the needy children.
My thoughts are now turning to returning and my plans are as follows:
- End of July - time with family and friends, source a campervan/motorhome to live in when not visiting (anyone know of anyone selling?)
- August - two weeks of switching off from this work in SW England, then preparing for the tour
- September - a tour of UK and Ireland of all the churches and groups who have been supporting this project - want me to visit you? let me know, get the kettle on!
- October - search for temporary job to cover rest of year - might be getting too cold to live in van!
- 2010 - (probably) go back to visit the Project again for a month at the beginning of the year to follow up on plans laid now - cunning plan continues! - and then after that hopefully settle down in UK again for a bit with a proper job and home
Thanks for your continued support and love! I'm dreaming of you all eating strawberries and watching Federer vs Nadal but I'll content myself with pineapple and Bananagrams (a seriously addictive game like scrabble but a race!).