Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Uganda Diary Day 3: Getting stuck in

April 6th – Friday

So today we were brick-throwing, forming a human chain from the bottom of the hill where the truck dumps the large clay bricks, to the top of the slope.  They are for the locals digging a new latrine pit for the boys dormitories at the high school.  It's basically a hole the size of the pickup truck that goes down about 40ft.  They are layering the bricks round the inside of it, walking happily along scaffolding made of bamboo and old planks.  We worked from 8:30pm until about 11:30 then went to watch the high school's sports day.  It was good work once we got ourselves organised, although there were a few accidents; blisters, and bricks thrown badly and dropped on toes.  It was the biggest brick team of the week and the weather cloudy and cool today, but I have major respect for the William Parker lot who have been at it for four consecutive days.  I'm not physically tired, but I think I'll feel it in my muscles tomorrow.

Latrine building in progress.

Our brick throwing chain.  Some of the local kids got stuck in too, and hauled clay like the best of us.
Roger, king of Brick Mountain
The Sports Day was just like the ones from my high school.  Harried teacher on the loudspeaker, long inexplicable gaps between events, and all the kids losing focus and doing something else. The William Parker lot managed to get themselves into a race!  The boys ran the 100m and did fairly well.  One came 3rd and the others tailed near the end, but they ran barefoot like the local boys and slipped a lot.  Then they won the boys 5-a-side Tug Of War!  One boy, Ben, is massive and played rugby, which may have had something to do with it.  I joined the girls as their fifth member and anchor, and although we lost we held out for a good while.  The Ugandan girls had a female version of Ben, and once she saw that we were putting up a fight she frowned, hunkered down and heaved.  From then on it was a losing battle, but a lot of fun.  As usual we were swamped by small kids wanting to hold your hand or be picked up or try to work your camera but hold the button down constantly and get about five photos of their own hand!
The William Parker boys keep things fair with barefoot racing
Playing confusing hand tricks on small children.  Hooray!
I made a friend!

Some unexpected spectators from the foster home!
This afternoon we visited a family for our Development Challenge.  The QT welfare workers picks a family in the community who are particularly in need and we have to devise questions that will tell us about the family and what they are most in need of.  We will then be given £100 GBP and must decide what to spend it on that would benefit them the most in the short, medium and long term.  Our family was a widowed grandmother named Ruth with six children (her own and some grandchildren) living in a two-roomed house.  The tin roof had a few holes in it but otherwise the main problems were the house's location at the bottom of a slope which causes the rain to wash away the footing of the house, and the fact that in exchange for the title of the house and land the amount of space she has to farm on has decreased from four acres to just half.  This really limits her ability to feed her family.  Also she has a hernia the size of my fist sticking out below her ribcage.  It's pretty dramatic – she very casually showed it to us.  As I'm finding with most of the people we meet here, Ruth was incredibly open and hospitable about sharing with us what life in her family is like.  Even with Resti translating, it was touching to see how much she appreciated our interest, Mum's in particular.  Mum has a talent for asking question, showing she's paying attention to people, and thinking things through by verbalising her thoughts, even if they seem obvious.  I tend to process internally, so I find it hard to ask questions – she was the ideal person to have with us on this task!

Mum, with Ruth and her family
In the meantime the menfolk had gotten themselves left behind and were discussing the structure of the house and it's landscaping issues.  When we got back we began to discuss it, and it was interesting what had caught everybody's attention.  Some ideas were completely unfeasible given the money or the time we had, and the current circumstances of the family (e.g. Ruth would like a pig which could be bred to supplement her income, but at the moment she doesn't have the ability to feed it, so that's out).  Some ideas were ridiculously simple – locks for her two bicycles so they don't get stolen – and some seemed like pipe dreams but may actually work (fixing her roof, tiering the land around her house to help stop the rain washing the land away).  We really went to town.

Tomorrow we'll discuss these ideas with Resti and maybe Geraldine to see what will actually work practically, and how much these things will cost.  Then we get to go shopping for it and implement our ideas! I'm really looking forward to seeing the family again, although if I'm honest I'm seeing this all a little academically at the moment.  In order to make the best choices I'm trying to be objective and put my own feelings aside.  However this does mean that it feels like it's not really happening and it's all some kind of game.  Maybe it will sink in more when we take our gifts and put them in place.  Even then it seems hard to understand that what we are doing.  This seems so easy to us and takes so little of our time and effort, but it could have a real effect on how Ruth and her children get from day to day.

This evening some of the kids from the high school came over for board games.  Dan came over again to see Dad, just in time to join us for a game of Crazy Crazy Golf (Yes, two 'crazy's).  This is QTs idea of giving us something to do on our free evenings, and in all seriousness it is the most insane golf course ever made.  As my Dad put it “It could only have been designed by a Frenchman”.  The green is pock-marked cement, the obstacles are blocked with goodness knows what and some haven't let a ball through since the day they were built.  One of Emma's balls came out accompanied by a frog, which gave her the fright of her life, and then the head fell off one of the clubs.  And it was night.  We were all in stitches.  

The impossible snake obstacle
We came back to the games night and I ended up playing Downfall with a couple of girls; Margaret, Josephine and Maureen.  I hadn't played in years but once they'd reminded me I started winning so I joined forces with Margaret and showed her how I was doing it.  Rather than move one counter at a time you can use your turn to set up the dials in such a way that a counter will be moved accidentally by your opponent.  It was interesting to see how the different girls reacted to this idea.  Margaret picked it up quickly and started beating Josephine so I showed Josephine what I was doing but she didn't seem to understand that you could think ahead. 
Margaret and I kept playing and I kept winning by one counter.  Maureen arrived so I showed her too.  I beat her by five counters, then three, then one, and then she started winning.  I bucked up and played my best game but she kept beating me!  Although all the kids are clever to have made it into the high school, Maureen in particular was whip smart.  It was a great way to meet them all actually, and see them break out of the general impression we’ve had of Kabubbu so far and start to show off their individuality.  As we usually see the people here in groups and communication is quite limited with some of them, it helped to be able to speak to them one-on-one and get to know them as individual people rather than just part of the nation.

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