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Published: July 22nd 2011
It has been really difficult for me to write this final Uganda blog, I had trouble summing up the experience in my mind, let alone on paper. Three months in Uganda gave me such a range of experiences, made me question things I didn't think I would and exposed me to great beauty and staggering hardships. I wanted to be able to express everything, without being negative or adversely glossing over anything.
After Al's blog on his week visiting me in Uganda I had exactly a month left before returning to London. The atmosphere in our household had changed, and Kristina and I began to feel uncomfortable. In hindsight I think it was due to differing expectations. They have had many Westerners stay with them and give them money, gifts and clothes. Kristina and I had decided early on that as we were paying to stay in the house, any further money we gave to the programme should be going directly to the people we were aiming to support, not to the middle class family we were living with. Tension grew, and we tried to stay out of the house as much as possible.
Despite the growing tension in
Little Miss Grumpy
She wasn't very keen on smiling
the house, we managed to have some fun. We continued to do quite a lot of shopping in Kampala, going to the craft markets and making sure we ate as much meat as we could. We also spent a lovely weekend in the Ssese Islands - I had already been to the islands with Al, but sun, sand and a few cold beers were a great way of spending our last little trip away.
I continued working with the women, getting to know them and become friends with many of them. I learnt more about the community development programme they ran. A grassroots programme, run by the community enabling them to sell crafts, teach adult education and even do home visits for the disabled and the elderly with HIV/AIDS. I was inspired and impressed that they had taken their own initiative and in the face of hardships worked within their own community to improve lives. There was no expectation that I would give them anything, only impart any knowledge that I could and assist them with their work.
And we spent more time with lovely Gladys; another warm, compassionate and extremely generous woman who sends her brothers and
sisters to school and university, has gone back to school herself and spends her days volunteering at a childrens hospital. Her need is great and yet she would cook for us and mother us, worry we weren't getting enough nutrients and show us her Uganda.
Towards the end of our time in Uganda the rains came, bringing mud and rats to our lives. I had my first experience of a rat in my bed which surprisingly gave me the giggles and we were often confined to the house during the storms. I began to miss the dust and see rats everywhere (because they were everywhere).
As the tension in our house increased, the food got worse and Kristina and I would experience headspins and occassional stomach cramps due to diet of rice and potatoes. Towards the end we were ready to return home, to have our own space again, choose our own food and if I am honest, to have a hot shower, to get away from the reproachful looks and judgements the family were making about us.
All in all, my time in Uganda was wonderful. Spending so much time with Kristina was amazing and I
miss talking to her every day. I was so lucky to have met such a likeminded person to experience Uganda with. I learnt so much from Gladys and the women in the Lweza Progressive Development Programme and I have a deep respect for their tenacity and their positivity. I met other people, like those running the programme I was on, that were manipulative and greedy but those can be found anywhere you go.
I have mixed feelings about aid work now. I have seen the expectations of Ugandans that mzungus
can fix all their problems and seen that many of them believe we can give them an easy way out. I'm inclined to believe that sharing knowledge is the way forward and that it should be reciprocal learning as there is a lot the West could learn from Uganda, and Africa in general.
I love Uganda; I love it for the wildlife, for the scenery, the white water rafting, the craziness of Kampala and the serenity of its islands but most of all, I love it for its people, and I hope that I get to spend more time with them.
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