Bats & beads, dorms & divas…

I have blisters on my fingers from sharpening coloured pencils, I now find it normal to kick giant centipedes from my room, I’ve gone cross-eyed from tying knots in beaded fishing line, the bat that lives in the roof above my head no longer bothers me, I hardly notice the cockroaches that run across our dining table, I say sorry to people for things I didn’t do, I know that I will not be able to walk past a single person without greeting them for five minutes repeating the same phrase, I think nothing of crunching gravel in my rice and when the pond water is muddy brown, I bathe in it anyway. I am officially becoming Ugandan.

So we thought it was about time we got out of the village and had a weekend in the city. Yes, that same city where people literally ran riot through the streets not so long ago but now you would hardly know except for the marked presence of soldiers in the streets. In typical Ugandan fashion, they rioted, made a horrifically gory calendar to celebrate/commiserate/commemorate the dead and dying and forgot about it. And so here I find myself, in the Kampala in search of a glass of wine and a good coffee. So far so good.

With less than a month left at KAASO, time really is flying and the days are so full. The highlight of the week was undoubtedly watching the girls move into their new Kiwi House. And when I say move, I mean move. Triple-decker bunks were carried from the library/computer lab to the new dorm by the 100-odd girls who are now living in Kiwi House. It’s hard to give an idea of the scale of it but picture 100 girls, 100 metal trunks containing all their worldly possessions, another 500 children watching on with interest and in the midst of it all, workmen still working, making bricks and mixing concrete (with their bare feet). It was a sight to see. But construction is all but finished, they are just finalising a few last minute things and then Kiwi House will be complete. It’s an incredible achievement, one we only dreamed could ever be possible and you all have made it happen so sending you all more thanks than you could ever imagine. The official opening is going to be held at Visiting Day on 18th October so we will celebrate in style, probably with an insanely sweet orange soda or some such delight…

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So that leaves us set to start work on the computer lab/library. We have had both setbacks and steps forward. The good news is the Rotary Club of East Coast Bays in Auckland has agreed to fund all the furniture – desks, shelves, chairs etc and we have told the carpenter to get to work! The not-so-good news is that in an incredible stroke of genius, the government of Uganda has decided that used computers are carcinogenic and has banned the importation of second hand laptops and computers. Don’t even get me started. Apparently used clothes also give you cancer but seeing as half the nation is clothed by used clothes of the West, banning them probably wouldn’t go down so well with the people. So our contact to supply computers from a university in Canada is no longer so certain – a large shipment of used computers arriving looks a little suspicious. But fortunately individual packages seem to be OK getting past enemy lines so if anyone has any old laptops lying around and would like to send them over, that would be AMAZING! The library also needs books (most good libraries do…) and as far as I know, they’re deemed safe so we’d also welcome any book donations with open arms.

Thanks to the generosity of friends from home, I’ve also started a bead bonanza and it has been creating quite a stir. Armed with bags of coloured beads and fishing line, I’m going around the classrooms making beaded necklaces with the children and now girls and boys alike proudly parade their new creations, grinning as they show off their beads, crying as they are stolen, screaming as they fall to the ground and splatter everywhere, laughing at their friends’ misfortune and then grinning all over again. It’s a real roller coaster! So far I’ve helped to string, thread, cut and tie 431 beaded necklaces – only 192 to go…

 

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The Wizard of Mwanza is literally blowing up a storm. The children are so enthusiastic about their roles and are taking to acting much better than I ever could have hoped. This is the first play they’ve ever done in English and although it’s difficult when sometimes I’m the only one to understand my witty, cunning jokes, they seem to have found a whole raft of jokes in the script that I never even knew were there. I’m employing the local photographer to film the performance so we will forever have a record of it. I’m sure the children will be thrilled to see themselves on the big-ish screen on their Sunday evening movie night (which usually involves terrible African video clips). It’ll be on YouTube before you know it…

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I still can’t believe that in less than a month I’ll be launched back into the ‘real’ world. It’s hard to know now what the ‘real’ world really is. Yes, there are many, many things I’m looking forward to when I get to Europe, but there are also so many things I’ll miss here. Huge smiles and little faces, red earth and blinding sunshine, a real sense of humanity and community that’s long been lost in the West, a world where everyone has time for everyone else, has such respect for elders and family is so very important. It will seem strange not to talk to everyone single person I pass – and to be considered strange for doing so!

I was told before I came here that Africa really gets under your skin. They didn’t tell me that it also gets on your skin and you will never quite be clean from red dust. But I wouldn’t have it any other way – on or under my skin, Africa is now a part of me, forever and always.

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