Thursday, 19 April 2012

Uganda Diary Day 4: Retail Therapy

April 7th – Saturday

Lie-in this morning, which was good as we had judged correctly and all had backs aching horrifically.  We did a puppet show at 10am for the kids from the lower school who were brought over specially and really enjoyed it.  Of course they didn't understand most of the words, but they loved all the visual stuff, the dancing and actions and pictures, and Dad was on hand with their teacher to explain what was going on.  They'd seen puppets before but not quite like this and we could hear them all laughing from behind the stage.

Assembly at Kabubbu primary school
The William Parker lot were off visiting the Nile today so lunch was pretty quiet, and afterwards we had to discuss what we wanted to get for Ruth as part of the Development Challenge.  Geraldine was there to ask all the difficult questions and we had asked Enoch, the director of the project, about prices.  In some ways it was good because haggling over what we could and couldn't do with the time and resources we'd been given brought it home to me that this wasn't just an engaging game, we were affecting a real family so we had to do our very best. 
At one point it was mentioned that we had more money of our own but Geraldine forbade us from adding it to the pot, which relieved me to be honest.  Although this was a real person we were dealing with it felt like cheating, because of course the challenge was designed to affect us as visitors too.  It's important that we understand you can't just fix a problem by adding more money.  So much depends on how you apply the money, if you've bought the right things and have the skills to implement them, if the person you're trying to help can sustain the change you've made and manage it responsibly.  It's frustrating in a way to have your ideas shot down – our favourite idea of increasing Ruth's farming space and reducing the erosion to the footing of her house by cutting some tiers into the slope her house is on had to go as we simply couldn't have done it in the afternoon we had.  However, thanks to Steve, our resident handyman, we do think we can fix the hole in her roof.

In the end our shopping list was roughly as follows, with the prices in Ugandan Shillings and then in English:
Medicine for Loni's (youngest child) ear infection     2,000               60p
To fix the roof
            Bitumen, ½ litre                                              8,000               £2.40
            Guttering 30ft + clips                                      54,000             £16.20
            Water butt 200 litre                                         200,000           £60.00
Single mattress                                                            70,000             £21.00
Food for 2 weeks for a family of 6                             Whatever is left over

We walked up to Ruth's again to double check the roof, confusing her slightly as we had no Resti to translate but her neighbour spoke English (We're supposed to keep our purpose there a surprise but I think she's onto us!).  While Dad and Steve were structurally analysing the house I tried to break the awkward silence by playing a drawing game with her kids.  I would draw something I could see and they would tell me its name.  It also turns out that it's very useful to have someone in the group who can draw when you're trying to describe a hypothetical guttering system to people, or someone is trying to remember the length of the roof and you recall that you drew it and took several pictures when you were there yesterday.  I did wonder how the drawing would be received as from my point of view it's just recording what I see for my own benefit and for fun, but today it really came in useful and I felt pleased to have a skill to contribute to the more technical skills of the menfolk, and Mum and Emma's entertainment skills with the puppets.

The trading centre, the hub of life in Kabubbu
We walked out to Ruth's ourselves and to get back we had to go through the main trading centre.  Although as white folk we're safer than most, we did know that if there was to be any violence it would probably start round the pool table in the trading centre, the equivalent of a rowdy men’s pub back home.  I'm usually pretty gung-ho about these things; I like to do things myself, I believe in body language, eye contact and good manners, and in England that's usually enough to ward off trouble.  I expect to be treated with a certain level of respect and I try to make sure that the people around me understand that.  My confidence walking through town in England is based on my understanding of the culture and behaviour of people I am familiar with, but it struck me rather uncomfortably that here it's different because no matter how I expect to be treated, the people here might not see it that way.  Women's Rights are still below par in Uganda, so the way I normally behave may be disregarded and ignored. Walking through there and feeling a lot of eyes on us I did feel glad to have Dad and Steve there to form the front line with.

We took the minibus to Gayaza with Lilian and the minibus driver Godfrey to buy our items, but as white people we couldn't go into the shops personally because the traders would assume (correctly) that we were rich and put the price up immediately.  Fortunately for us, Lilian's husband Enoch, the director of the development project in Kabubbu, was in town to attend the burial of Resti's father-in-law, which is why she wasn't with us today.  He went haggling for us and managed to get everything we asked for with 39,000 shilling to spare (£10!)  Webele nnyo Enoch!  Dad remarked to Lilian that she had married a good husband, to which she promptly replied “He married a good wife!”, and I burst out laughing.

While we were waiting Godfrey took Dad, Mum and me on a tour of Gayaza town centre and the market.  The main road is very loud and smoky and dusty, but then he took us down a narrow alley to one side of the charcoal sellers where it suddenly opened out into a (just as crowded) fruit market.  The ground was carpeted with fruit sellers, little griddles with meat skewers, stalls covered in goat heads and intestines, barrows piled with the 3ft long horns of the local cows, clothes stalls, cutlery stalls and everybody shouting “Mzungu! Mzungu!” and trying to get our attention.  Crossing the main road to get back to the minibus, even with Godfrey letting Mum hold his arm, was taking your life in your hands.

Stall selling goat intestines.  Apparently, if you wash them enough times, you can get a half decent stew out of them.
Gayaza main road

The hidden market

Local cows.  Those horns are about 3ft in length

In the minibus with Lilian and a pile of purchases.

Dad does what he does best, and gets a lesson in the African guitar
Dinner, a round of UNO, and squabbling over how to spend our remaining £10.  Geoff has kindly agreed to get out the printer from his office so I can give Ruth the photo I took of her faimly when we drop off her gifts.  W said we could send it from England with Geraldine on her next trip out, but it would be great to give it to her tomorrow. 
Steve's been checking out how he's going to be getting onto the roof to plug the holes.  I'm really glad him and Dave are here.  They're both really good guys with a great senses of humour, and I'm enjoying seeing them give their expertise to the students and locals as well as this challenge.  At home when you meet people it's often in social situations but I'm finding that you learn more about them when you seen them working, in action, whether that's in their specialist area or something more menial.  

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