On Monday we arrived in Kampala and I was reminded of all the reasons I dislike this crazy city! I think the maddest point could be when people started driving the wrong way up a dual carriage way while the policeman just stood an watched them. This meant that the traffic was all flowing in the same direction on both sides of the central reservation! Of course in time, people started wanting to drive against the majority but they had to pick their own way driving off the road!
We delayed coming by a day because I came down with malaria the morning we were due to travel – an interesting moment of de ja vu – last year malaria also came knocking when we were supposed to leave Karamoja and delayed us! I’m really much better now, the tablets they gave me have been effective and efficient so there’s no need of worrying! Malaria sounds terrible but the symptoms are very similar to having a virus or stomach bug in the UK, as long as you get treated quickly enough. Now I’ve made a full recovery, thank you to all of you who prayed about it.
What breaks me to the point of interrupting my sleep, is knowing that there are too many people here who can’t access that treatment. In many rural places, the only option for treatment are gov’t health centres. People can walk many miles when they are sick or spend all the money they have on a boda (motorbike taxi) only to find that doctors and medicines are mutually exclusive (i.e. You only find one or the other there). If the doctor is there, he will want you to buy medicine from his private clinic which he has diverted from the gov’t facility. For those who have travelled by boda, they simply don’t have the cash and very many people are too weak to walk. Another obstacle is the requirement to have an attendant to be admitted. Ugandan nurses seem to only be there to administer drugs, any other way of caring for the patient is done by the attendant (including feeding). All of this seems crazy when I was fortunate enough to visit a clinic a few metres away, be treated within 5 mins of arriving at a cost of less than £4.
On the way down, we were able to meet (at long last!) a contact I also tried to meet last year but malaria disorganized my schedule and I had to cancel. He is a doctor but spends more time pastoring a Calvary Chapel church which now has a bible school attached. It was great to put a face to a name and finally meet (albeit briefly) despite the sacrifice of taking a route with poorer roads!
It really doesn’t feel like a week since I came here but I guess it’s because it’s been so bitty! I’ve not slept for more than 2 consecutive nights in the same place – popping about doing jobs and seeing people. Today I’m moving onto Masaka (where Mother Janet is) but in true African style I could be picked up at any moment or not until late this evening! But for now I’m just enjoying some time relaxing and being with Rainbow’s children (who he picked up from school this week).
I am also now the very proud owner of a Ngakarimojong-English dictionary! Such things are somewhat a rarity in Uganda, especially for an obscure language like Ngakarimojong (the language spoken in Karamoja) so I was very pleased when I tracked this one down! At the same time I tried to hunt down a copy of the national curriculum here as they don’t publish it online. After tracking down the office for the right part of the govt (which is the only place that sells them), we found that half of the books I wanted were out of stock. However, I’m happy to have made a start. Upon studying it, I have realised that the problems with education on Uganda don’t just stem from a lack of understanding on the part of the teachers but that the curriculum itself is far from ideal. Reading it has been very interesting though!
I had a little adventure with the shower in my hotel room on Kampala. Some bright spark had laid the floor so that the drain was uphill and the door was downhill, so after all the excitement of not having a shower in a bucket, all my shower water ended up in my bedroom, narrowly missing aforementioned books and a friend’s dissertation I accidentally went off with! Very grateful for the near miss!!
Yesterday I had a meeting with some other people in the organisation I was thinking of going with long term. It was encouraging all round and great to get a wider perspective of what is being done and has been done in East Africa. Always good to be able to tap into the experience of others!