After returning from a 4 day visit to Queen Elizabeth National Park on Tuesday night I have been thinking we should write another blog. The good old Ugandan electricity supply has put a stop to that though. The power went off about lunch time on Wednesday and as I write now, on Friday morning, we are still waiting for it to come back on!
So with the battery dead flat on my laptop, the battery on my phone just about to die and steady rain falling outside, I have decided to pass the time by going back to the good old fashion way of hand writing in a book. Hopefully the power will return soon so I can type up what I have written and upload it soon ....... Hang on a tick............Annette is just shouting from the clinic that the power is back. We are all jumping for joy!
That means I'm now back to working on my laptop, (yippee!) we were able to boil water for a cuppa and have toast for breakfast (yippee!) and we will be able to see what we are eating for dinner tonight because we won't have to use a kerosene lantern. (yippee!) These are all things we take for granted in Australia but the reality is, for most people in the village, they have no access to electricity and have to struggle by without it on a day to day basis.
And now that the wet season looks to have begun, the villagers also have to deal with the extra hardships that the rain brings. Something as simple as moving from one place to another in the mud is difficult, bringing a sick family member to the clinic is more difficult and even getting clothes washed and dried is a challenge without the help of a washing machine and clothes drier.
So I guess the last couple of days have really bought into focus just how dam lucky we are back home! I'm sure Loretta and Justin will appreciate the simple pleasures, we westerners take for granted, as much as I do, when they arrive back to Australia next week.
Anyway back to what we have been up to since last week................
We set off last Saturday to Queen Elizabeth National Park, all very excited and looking forward to being tourists for a bit. Unfortunately we had not quite made it to Mbarara when the van started blowing thick black smoke out the back. David was very quick to pull over and sent Ishmael off on a boda boda, about 6-7kms into town to find a mechanic. Eventually the mechanic arrived and we slowly drove into town to the very busy garage he worked at.
As the many mechanics went about pulling pieces from under the bonnet we soon realized that it wasn't going to be easily fixed. Loretta, Justin and I set off to Agip Hotel for lunch and a cold drink while David waited at the garage for the outcome.
Quite a few hours later he called to say that the news wasn't good; the motor would need to be completely rebuilt! As I headed back to the garage to meet David I felt sick in the pit of my stomach. We had just recently had a lot of work done on the van and now we had to do more! After much discussion and a number of phone calls home to Browny, who is ALWAYS my tower of strength, we decided that it did not make sense to rebuild a motor that had already had extensive work done on it and we were better off to get a replacement motor from Kampala.
This meant that we needed to stay the night in Mbarara, so Loretta and Justin organized a room, while David and I made many phone calls to Kampala and did lots of running around to organize for the motor to be bought and fitted while we continued on to Queen Elizabeth in a hire car. It really was quite stressful at the time, but as with everything that we do here in Uganda, we overcame the challenge and eventually spent a lovely three days in the National Park which I'm sure Loretta and Justin will tell you about.
Mbarara Garage - I can't begin to count how many hours and different garages we have spent time in over the years. The terrible Ugandan roads definitely make it hard for cars to survive here!
Right in the middle of all the stress we walked passed a sign on a car that made David and I laugh - "No situation is permanent" How true!
Since being back at Suubi we have had a couple of extra things added to the usual activities. About thirty younger boys and youth gathered at Lubanda Playground to be coached by a couple of professional football coaches from Kampala. This created lots of excitement among the boys as it is something that we hope will continue in the future. Maybe we will have a world standard player like Ronaldo coming from Suubi Centre in the future!
Everyone was very excited about having professional coaches in the village.
Then yesterday we had 40 students from Busuubi Primary school come to Suubi to receive letters that Loretta had bought with her from Sacred Heart Primary School in Tatura. They were thrilled to read all about life in Australia from their new pen pals and were equally as excited to write back and tell them about themselves and life in Uganda.
This is a wonderful way for both lots of students to learn from a completely different culture to their own. And as has happened with other people who have been writing to each other over the last few years, you never know if some of these children may be lucky enough to meet each other face to face at some time in the future.
Busuubi students, who a currently on school holidays, were excited to make the 2 hour walk to Suubi to receive letters from their new friends in Australia.
They were thrilled to take their letters home with them and know that theirs will soon be on the way to Australia.
Isn't it just fantastic to have so many wonderful things happening at Suubi? And now, I am about to get on a boda boda to go and watch the Suubi Youth music, dance and drama group perform at their first official function so I'll hand over to Loretta and Justin.
I hope you are all happy and well there.
Big love and I miss you all!
HUGs from Helen.
Loretta and Justin
Half way through our Ugandan odyssey and we set off to see wild Africa. The axiom “No worry, no hurry in Africa” was once more demonstrated with a days delay on the way courtesy of the engine reaching a terminal stage of its life. Despite the delay we arrived at Queen Elizabeth National Park anticipating close encounters with wildlife. We were not disappointed. In the evening we took a cruise on the Kazinga Channel, which links Lakes George and Edward, two very large fresh water lakes.
Loretta and Justin enjoyed the peace of floating down Kazinga Channel.
We cruised slowly close to the bank and had a great view of animals cooling in the water or mud. Enormous hippos dived underwater, surfacing near our boat, water buffalo lazed in the mud, crocodiles lay like stone and a herd of elephant lumbered down to drink. Complimenting the animals were abundant beautiful birds, colorful small finches, water birds and sea eagles.
Huge hippos were right beside the boat.
Elephant happliy drank from the channel.
Incredibly, the President, Museveni, arrived by military helicopter the same day. He was staying at the lodge for a few days for a local by-election. The area was overrun with army personal, mostly sporting AK47s or other weapons not to be argued with. When he left by road for the hustings, the entourage included four utes with armed soldiers, an ambulance (one of the few we have seen), a large truck and four Range Rovers.
The first evening we indulged in a fine meal at Mweya Lodge, a wonderful buffet of food which, reminiscent of Homer Simpson, we returned to many times. Our lodgings near the hostel, were less salubrious than the Lodge, however, included the luxury of a shower – such bliss.
At 6.30 the next morning, we set off on a game drive with Julius, our guide. Over a very corrugated road we headed for the open savannah. Our first sighting was one timid bush buck in the distance. Fears we should have brought binoculars were soon allayed as we came across a herd of Ugandan Kob. There must have been at least a thousand in the herd, beautiful animals who didn’t even bother with us driving through them.
Where there is Kob, there is Lion. Our guide directed us to a group of bushes where three young cubs were playing nearby. The Lioness was near the bushes, but disappeared inside soon after we arrived. As we progressed we saw water buffalo, a lone hippo, warthogs and elephants. On the drive back to Mweya, we had to stop the car as a herd of some 30 elephants crossed the road just 20 metres ahead of us.
On return we had lunch at the lodge and a few beers around the swimming pool looking out at the incredible. The lure of the pool was too great on a hot day and Justin jumped in his shorts and Helen in her dress. The bar attendant informed us it was for the use of Lodge guests only and we would have to pay $20.00 US each for the privilege. Not keen on parting with our money, we did a runner when he wasn’t looking. Loretta and Helen hid in the gift shop until the coast was clear. Fearing military intervention we lay low for the afternoon.
That evening we went on our own game drive around the peninsula and saw water buck, kob, hippo, water buffalo and mongoose. For dinner we ate at the less grand hostel – believing it best to stay away from the Lodge. Overnight Justin was woken by a noise, which he found to be a hippo grazing outside his window – so close he could have touched it.
The next morning both of us were up early and walked down to the hostel for breakfast. Justin was alarmed when Loretta fell flat on her face. Fearing she had been shot, he did not know whether to stay and help her or run for cover. Thankfully it was only a trip and resulted in only minor injury. The drive home was beautiful through the mountain tea estates where people were out early harvesting by hand. Later we passed Zebras grazing by the roadside – such beautiful animals.
We arrived back at 4.00 pm to a warm welcome by all – nice to be home. We were thrilled to find the medical records running smoothly, with 64 medical records now issued.
Emma proudly showed Loretta the medical records they had been keeping while she had been away - perfect!
We drove to our elderly lady we saw on day one. She was full of spunk and cross with Richard the doctor. She demanded that the muzungu pass the nasogastric tube! Her pressure wound has healed.
The following morning we met Frank, an unwell looking boy of 8, suffering from a severe staph infection of the scalp. We concocted a hair wash container out of a 20 litre water container and soaked his scalp to clean the wounds which were long standing. We sent him off with an innovative turban like dressing and antibiotics.
A renovated empty water bottle was perfect to perform the much needed head wash.
Frank and Justin were both pleased with his innovative turban like dressing.
He returned again this morning and we were delighted to see some improvement. However, Loretta’s delight turned to fright when in searching for a towel for Frank; she came across more Ugandan Wild Life. Justin heard a scream and some expletives and observed a ‘Husain Bolt’ like dash from Loretta, who ended up on a stool in the waiting room. Justin assured her it was only a Siberian Hamster, however, once killed by several staff members with sticks, he did admit that it greatly resembled a rat.
Loretta with the dead rat the Ishmael had so skillfully chased and killed!
Smiles on all our faces this morning with the power back on after two days of blackout. We are all happy campers. Can’t believe we are nearing the end of our stay – just four more days before we leave for Kampala.
Love to all, Loretta and Justin