Sunday, 18 May 2008

You know you're in Africa when ... (Kotido, Kachiri, Kaabong)

We've been in Kachiri Monday - Friday, Kaabong this Saturday and Sunday and Kotido in-between.

I hope the following gives a taste of what we've seen and done....

You know you're in Africa when ...

10:30 am actually means 12pm, or maybe 1 or 2 pm.

It rains for less than an hour and everywhere is flooded. But the people are over-joyed.
... and more rain

The local church is just a tin roof.
Kacheri church

You have four armed police men guarding you at night.
Four policeman with AK47's was assigned to guard us at night for the week

Almost one-hundred people meet under a tree, and will listen to three locals and three Muzungu's talk about God.
one of the many learning trees we visited

Only English men use umbrella's when it rains.
Peter is a real Englishman ... he didn't forget his umbrella

Children have swollen bellies because there is no food.
the signs of famine

Young and old have eye problems that are a minor operation in the West. Yet when they look at you, you also see their love and gratitude for meeting you.
we prayed for many people

You borrow a local's bike, only to discover it has no brakes.
There goes Lyndsay

Your vehicle gets stuck in a dry river bed, and you and half a village dig, push and pull it out.
We needed some help to get out of a ditch

People who have nothing give you their fatest goat and chicken as a leaving gift. Some passengers (me) seem to worry about travelling with them though!
our gift catching a lift home

Planting a hedge is blister-making, back-breaking work (if you're a Muzungu, that is).
Planting the hedge

Going to the toilet (long-drop) at night may mean being shot (by a sleepy policeman, or whoever they're guarding us from).
our toilet

A game of hop-scotch attracts half the village.
hopscotch on the streets of Kacheri

People play football barefoot, despite inch-long thorns.
playing with the gifts we brought

A three-hour church service is short. It (plus free lunch) attracts 720 people and ends with 102 people becoming Christians.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Arriving in Kotido

We left Kampala on the 7.30 am MAF flight to Karamoja.Flying from Kampala in the South to Karamoja in the North-East was uneventful, but mind-blowing. As we crossed the Nile, and got closer and closer to Karmoja, the land went from being lush and green to dry and brown. River beds were very visible, with not water to be seen. I asked Laurie, the pilot, how long they stayed wet for. His reply was just one day. This is a region that only gets 5 cm of rain a year, and yet people have lived here for thousands of years.

Arriving in Kotido was very exciting. To finally be here after seven months of planning was a great feeling. It was mid-thirties, so we found the nearest bit of share to wait for our pickup.

After a fantastic welcome ("you are most welcome" was a phrase we would hear a lot from then on), we got to work. More on that next post. Our accomodation was basic, but suficient. We were just very glad for the mosquito nets!

Laurie prepares the MAF plane for take-off The NileDry river bedsManyatta up close
Finding shade as quickly as possible Our bed for the night

Thursday, 8 May 2008

First impressions of Uganda

We've done a fair bit of driving around Kampala today, what with needing to buy some wireless routers to take to Karamoja, plus visiting various sights and markets. When I say driving, I fortunately mean "being driven", as for a Westerner, the traffic is a nightmare! From what the others say though, Kampala is fairly typical of a large, 3rd-world city: busy, noisy, smelly and lots and lots of bikes and scooters. The only rule road-users seem to follow is keep to the left, though this does not stop over/under-taking at any opportunity!

What's surprised me about my visit so far is how normal everything seems. I was expecting to feel huge culture shock, both from being an ethnic minority and also due to the poverty. Both are very, very present, and the poverty saddens me, but I think I have yet to see it at its worst. I think that this has been tempered also by the seemingly even spread of poverty across the city: everywhere we go, we see people begging, selling things or otherwise impoverished, and yet right next to them will be someone in a suit, or a smart car, or even a private tennis court!

We were also treated to a view of Uganda's Prime Minister today! His convoy of a pickup, loaded with bored, but armed soldiers, followed by his chauffeur-driven Merc honked past us. We decided not to take any pictures though, having been warned by a traffic police-woman earlier in the day that taking photos without prior permission was not allowed (even from a car)!

Flying up to Karamoja tomorrow. Need to be up at 6 am :-(

Flickr photo stream of Uganda trip

Modern technology rocks! Although I can't claim responsibility for any of these snaps, they were taken by various members of the team...

First post from Kampala

I'm writing this post from Namirembe Guest House, in the capital of Uganda, Kampala. It still feels a bit surreal to be here, and inside I'm feeling very wobbly, like my head is not connected to my body!

I'm here with nine other Christians from Church of the Good Shepherd, Four Marks, as part of its Mission 2008 program. The basic idea is that we're celebrating the church's 100th anniversary by sending out 100 "blessings" to others, across the room, across the street and across the world. Our team are here to serve the church in Karamoja, an impoverished region of Uganda that is linked with the Winchester diocese.

Tomorrow morning we'll be flying to Karamoja on a MAF flight that will take six of the team to Moroto, in South Karamoja, and three of the team (including myself) to Kotido, in the more rural North Karamoja. One of my functions in the team is to install two laptops in the diocesan office in Kotido, and provide training in their use. The team will also be visiting local schools and manyatta's and speaking in local churches (Christ Church, Kotido on the first Sunday and St Peter's Church, Kabong on the second Sunday).

We'll be living with the locals, possibly in a manyatta like the one below!