After an unsurprising result from the England Team, all the volunteers went to bed to get up at the unforgivable time of 6.00 (5.00 for me and the leaders). Reason being we were setting off early for a 10 hour Matatu ride (small-cramped-uncomfortable-transit-van-with-windows-mobile). All good stuff.
Journey was pretty standard, asleep snoring most of it. Being on an aisle seat was an experience. You get half the back rest as it folds away, so very little head rest, but good views of both sides of the truck. Always focus on the positives. We stopped off at Misindi for a tranquil bite to eat, was ideal after 7 hours of the trip. Then back on the road for potholes galore. Others had it worse though, 3 more hours with worse conditions after we were dropped off.
On arriving to our site, we had an incident within two minutes, due to my doing… to an extent. Being the good Samaritan that I am, I tried to help fix the split bag of rice, that was supposed to last the entire week we were out on site. However, it exploded in my hands, all over the floor, when I tried to squeeze it in to an upgraded bag. So, with the help of some Ugandans, the next 5 mins was spent scooping up rice. Ideal start.
All the nightmare and trauma experienced earlier in the day was soon forgotten when we arrived at the school entrance. Around 1000 students ran straight for us, screaming with excitement, seeing white people or mesungoos, for the first time. They had just had an assembly with the headmaster about what we are going to be doing in the coming weeks and how we are assisting the school, so it was timed perfectly. All in all, a very heart-warming introduction for the coming weeks.
Settling in and meeting the cook and head teacher for the first time was very cool. They both had impeccable English and were a pleasure to meet. Putting up the Mosquito nets and realising we are living out a bag again for the next couple of days was a bit of a nightmare, but are very grateful the primary part of the school had giving up two class rooms for us and the builders, meaning they had lessons in the field and church. It is very close quarters, so if anyone one who has slept within a 30 yard radius near me, knows I have been paranoid about keeping everyone up with my endless, ear-splitting snores.
After settling in, we had some time before school ended, to spend time with the kids, which was hilarious. Around 100 piled around to get into a photo and were ecstatic to see the results, even if it was just their hands in the air. And if one of us ran off alone to one side of the adjoining field, half the school ran after, and you daren’t stop in fear the jump and engulf you with all the excitement.
Brilliant start, but the real work starts tomorrow!
The White (family, not ethnicity) genes were in full swing today. All that hard work at the Picture Place had paid off, making individual bricks was brilliant fun, but demanding work. Non-stop until you were out of breath or on the verge of passing out due to heat-stroke, but still great fun. Darren would be proud! Saying that, the builders were very impressed I picked it up so fast, showing me the “Disco Feet” technique which always provided a laugh, and even going as far to say I was an expert later in the day!
The food served is probably the most freshest, most tastiest food you’ve ever had. All local too I’ll have you know. Florence, our cook, is top notch, and the most kindest person I’ve ever met, very grateful for her being here.
Breaks are a welcome sight, and there is never a time when we are not surrounded by kids just watching in awe at us. It probably sounds that I am bigging our group up, but everywhere we go, people stare at us, wave at us, want to talk to us, get our names, contact details, sort code, account number, mother’s maiden name… last three are not true, but what I am saying is, Ugandans are very intrigued and friendly towards us. In a later break we got out a little bubble maker bottle we got as children at someone’s birthday goodie bag. The kids were going wild! Chasing bubbles all over the grounds, getting weed-wackers to burst them, they were loving life, and a great sight to see.
I think the work is very satisfying, you feel as though you are being a huge help, working your arse off and being very productive, accumulating a horrendous and “painful” amount of blisters in the process (mine are the worst I’ve been told, but I feel fine, Northern roots allow for a high pain tolerance when it comes to hard labour, but everyone is suffering). But I feel the workers are looking on in amazement at how bad we manage as a group to get what they manage to do. The sun doesn’t help, but every 10 mins, people are gasping for a quick 5 min break. One of them also thought we are workers sent from England, which doesn’t help the English labour reputation. Although it’s great fun, and very difficult for someone to tear me off it, I reckon the guys could bash out 3 bricks in the time it takes us to make 1.
The nights are great fun, chilling and recovering as a group, playing games to get to know each other better. Tonight’s “Jester” was charades and a little Would I Lie to You. The group is a great laugh, very friendly, bubbly supportive guys, probably the best group and site. The leaders are also brilliant, “Captain” Jack and Anna. Always pointing us in the right direction and keeping us all in check. Brilliant laugh too. (Reason he is captain, I’ll have you know, is we have 3 Jacks on sight, the Captain, JJ and Geordie)
The morning after is a right killer. The blisters have scared everyone and every muscle is aching like hell. Had a proper Doctors and Nurses moment this morning with my hands. Anna had me up in bandages, all the gaviscon (don’t remember what its called, but it’s the anti-sceptic cleanser thing). She was hoping that I’d steer well clear of the brick maker, but knew full well as soon as the gloves were on, I’d be back with my disco feet.
The day was pretty similar to yesterday, apart from it was a shit load more hotter. My mam would be very happy I had my hat/buff combination on the go. The hat came in very handy and I do look quite dapper.
Later in the day it started raining, like monsoon raining. So much so, we all had showers, soap, the lot. Daren’t think what was going on in the students heads “So white people take showers every time it rains? Quite peculiar” But it was a very refreshing power shower.
After all this fiasco, hand making concrete started. Now, this may go over a lot of people’s heads, apart from those who have experienced this, and perhaps the engineering community, but this did not include moving machinery. Just cement, aggregate, water and spades. Massive aggregate too, like on par with pebble category or beyond (bit of geotechnics f’ lads).
Night games tonight were Mafia. First time I played it but really good fun, little insight of what peoples poker tells were, so could be useful later…
Aye, aching all over this morning. Could barely move, but I’m not the type to complain. We did the same things as the previous days, so all is good. But we did run out of tape for our hands, which caused a little ruckus, we rocked out to some banging tunes, and formed a little daisy chain from a huge pile of existing bricks to foundations, passing along essential resources in an efficient way. Almost brought me to tears.
It was Max’s birthday, so celebrations were going on all day, from a group happy birthday from when he woke up, to biscuits and Mountain Dew presents in the evening.
A little later in the day, JJ and myself spoke to the headmaster Johnson and learned some amazing facts: there are 57 languages in Uganda alone, 5 local languages are spoken in the school, excluding English and Swahili and Ugandans can tell where other Ugandans are from, just through their facial expressions. Fact. And an amazing few at that!
Work had died down a little, which allowed us to recover a little, chill with some music and share ideas about where to travel afterwards. The kids had went home at this time so no chance to play any games with them. The feeling is Zanzibar at the moment, but I’ll keep you posted.
Today allowed a lie in (8.00 instead of 7.00!) and time for packing for the Rhino Weekend! Saying bye to the kids was cool, almost the entire school surrounded the Matatu seeing us off.
We stopped off at the centre of Masindi again to get a little food, recuperate and cash in for the next few weeks. We also had an opportunity to get food other than fruit, veg, beans and rice, so I was buzzing. Shops were very tranquil too.
This was also the first chance we had catching up with everyone since we departed to go to our separate sites. Everyone seems to be having a great time, loving life with the kids, getting on with the builders, getting buildings built and walls painted. Tight and long lasting friendships are being formed; I can sense it in the air.
At the rhino sanctuary we all got settled in, put our tents up and used the luxurious toilets. I say luxurious, it smelled, toilet paper was like glass, but we could sit down and not squat over a 3” by 2” hole in which we excrete (long drop is what it’s called in the hood). Everyone was on cloud nine, me included.
A BBQ banquet was on the cards later in the day, proper cooked beautiful meat. I was buzzing all over the place. It was also Liam’s Birthday, someone from a different group, so drinks were flowing in the evening to celebrate. Everyone had a great time bonding, catching up and getting to know each other properly.
But up early in the morning for Rhinos!
First proper shower since NRC was probably the most heavenly thing I’ve experienced for quite a while, never felt so fresh!
After a quick, and anti-climactic breakfast, we went straight to the centre of the sanctuary. We had a very passionate ranger who knew everything about rhinos, he had some brilliant craic, loved the tour. I think we managed to get around 20 metres next to a group, mother and calf. They were just chilling in the shade, loving life. Little fact for you, rhinos like sleep. More active a night when its cooler. So plenty of photos of passed out rhinos! Cool non-the-less.
After the tours, back on site, pack up and roll out to Masindi again. And Masindi has been great. Loving the markets, spending time with everyone, been a great laugh. But as I write this, in the late hours of Saturday night, my fellow volunteers have been getting quite giddy ready for a rather interesting night in the town centre. So I must leave you, and catch up with the high octane antics. In a bit, you stay cool.
Highlights of the week:
I had to add this little section at the end to highlight everything that’s happened this week, I know for a fact people will not read the 2000 word essay above.
It has been brilliant, a proper taste of Uganda. I can’t recommend enough for people to do this sort of thing. I feel on top of the world just being present around such passion people and friendly locals.
My group have also been a great laugh, Holly, Max, Amy, Matt and Zac have been a great laugh (most have requested a shout out, hence the “Highlight of the Week” section) but it has been brilliant spending time with everyone, I’m over the moon I’ve joined the RAG group. Although this has been a personal blog, most of which may not understand, read the following:
I’m having the time of my life, month two are in for a treat, RAG followers should get on this for the years coming, friends and family back home, I am safe and never been happier.
Keep cool and be happy.
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