Wheels in Uganda - Phil's blog, day 6
Tuesday 3nd July
I think I should be sleep deprived but remarkably woke up at 6:30 after about 4 hours sleep. We had breakfast at 7 and the minibus was ready for us at 7:30. So far soo good...
Now, we had a minibus that could seat 11 but with very little storage space. We had supposedly 11 passengers as we has some of the RILD team with us. The theory was that the chairs and seating systems we were due to take would easily fit in the vehicle. Glenda and I had one of those.. 'hmmmm reall?' moments when we had discussed it the other day.
We got down to the RILD offices and I quickly looked at the chairs and other bits we had to take and realized, as they were, we had no chance of fitting them in, even though we planned to use the roof of the vehicle as well. In the end we removed the wheels and stripped down the chairs as much as we could. We literally hung (with velcro) some of the chairs in the boot space available. More on the top of the minibus and then the rest including the tool kit which weighs about 25kg had to go in the back with us. Thankfully one of the people due to come didn’t turn up so we were able to get everything in. We were told it would take 2 hours to get there.
At the first toilet break, (well done to Helen, Anna and Roy for testing out the facilities, chalk one more up to you guys) we ate mango straight from the tree. I thought it only grew in Sainsburys. The next stop was unscheduled and was due to the bus overheating. In typical African fashion there was no waiting for it too cool down, simply go for the radiator cap. Which in this case was inside the vehicle. After spraying the front of the van with boiling hot water (thankfully in order to get at the radiator you had to have the front seat up so the front was empty when it exploded) our driver Max put some more water in there and within about 10 mins we were off again.
2.5 to 3 hours later we arrived. I keep forgetting African timing is whatever they initially say plus an hour or so at least! We had driven 135km over some good”ish” road and some not so good. Arriving at the school at about 12 noon we quickly unloaded and were eager to get started. We had been told we would finish at 3pm so the clock was ticking. However, we were given a full meet and great from the school kids and staff. We stood for the Ugandan national anthem and then some other songs the children sang. It’s a school for children with disabilities that we had been asked to go to and we were providing chairs to some of the children that went there and also some children and adults from the local area. Once the children had sung to us we were then given a brief history before we had to introduce ourselves. Of coure we can’t be rude but I was wondering when we would get started. Eventually though we started work.
I was helping a young lad, along with Anna (at this point the team will be wondering what name I am going to give her today - but - I am just going to call her Anna today, yes just Anna). I am now also hoping she’s really confused and wondering why I am being nice to her and to lull her into a false sense of security, perhaps. Anyway, back to our young friend. He had been crawling around on the floor - I have seen quite a few people doing this and it has an awful effect on their posture and of course their hands and knees. Imagine walking round Basingstoke on your hands and knees all day, now imagine it with mud, rubbish and other unimaginable etc on the ground. Yes.. pretty grim.
Anyway we fitted the lad with a wheelchair and by-golly he was desperate to get out and use it. He was a really switched on young guy. Not sure how old he was. I remember Roy playing with him on a ramp, he was letting him go part way down and he just loved it. He would sit there smiling and he’d stick his thumbs in the air. Again like yesterday something so fantastic (not sure if thats the best way of describing it) but it makes your insides go funny, seeing the joy in this young life and yet he’s got to live with such disabilities.
Now the time was nearly 4pm.. Yes you guessed it - it must be African time since we should have left at 3. There was then a suggestion we would then go to the lady who ran the school's house. Gordon who was just dying to exercise his deputy position (as Glenda wasn’t with us) took full control and politely explained we needed to get back to Kampala. Again it may seem rude but it's a long way and dinner gets served at 6pm and some of the ladies of course need a shower. Roy and I always smell like roses by the way. In reality the ladies, bar Anna, yes still just Anna, had been doing some washing. They hadn’t done mine though, which is of course a little disappointing. I had thought my title of most humble would have counted for something! As such I had worn the same mucky sweaty top for three days now. It’s ok though, I believe ladies like that manly smell... that's right yes?
Anyway, back in the minibus we set off back. We had a few stops for Max our drivers shopping it seemed. Rather than Sainsburys delivering to your door in Uganda you drive down the road and simply stop at a place where they sell what you want. You instantly get mobbed with all the sellers thrusting their goods in your face in the hope that you will select their goods. The first stop was for Bananas (the green ones, which we would call plantain). Now in Sainsburys (or if I were Pip I am sure it would be Waitrose, if I were Anna however I am sure I’d be shopping.... well wherever she wanted - still hoping I am leading her into a false sense of security as I am being nice to her so far), anyway back to Sainsburys where normally you buy a handfull of bananas, say 8 tops perhaps. Max our driver bought two branches (or to me small tress) with what seemed like a hundred bananas. One had to go on the roof. The next stop was for Pineapple. 1000 Ugandan shillings each. About 25p! Then the next stop was for paw paw and some tomatoes I think. Final stop just down the road was fresh fish from Lake Victoria - large fish for about £2.50 each - strangely though this was securely mounted to the front of the vehicle. Good idea really as otherwise it would have smelt really bad in the minibus. Should try that at home I think, put my selection of food on the bonnet in case it smells. So the equivalent to Sainsbury’s is a 135km stretch of road you drive down in Uganda.
All was going fine, and we even stopped for a few pictures as we goto the equator, until we hit a traffic jam...
It turns out a lorry had gone off the road. We had in fact seen it on the way to the school. However the authorities here had decided that the best time to recover the vehicle (even through it wasn’t in anyone's way, was in the peak of rush hour. Looks like there is still British influence in Uganda after all! This added a fair bit of time. Whilst waiting I was getting a bit of video and started filming some of the cows they have here with large horns... massive horns in fact. The cows were in the back of a lorry. Within seconds of starting to record I was greeted by some men in the back of the lorry saying "Masungu (meaning White man), no no no". I could only suppose that the cows were in fact movie stars and the men in the back their agents and didn’t want unauthorized videos being made. I guess come to think of it now they didn’t look like they had much make up on. They eventually cleared the road and we headed off again.
The sun set and the moon appeared... we debated films and family soap. (There is a joke in there but you have to have been on the journey). Anna had started another little competition which was to see if I had seen any of the favorite films of the other members of the team. The logic is that I would of course be completely uncultured and not have seen the favorites of the others. As it turns out she was right, I hadn’t seen many of the films mentioned. From Gone with the Wind to Fly Fishing in the Yemen etc etc. So it is true, the rest of the team is completely uncultured and I’ll stick to watching James Bond and Iron Man.
So.. he journey took a little longer than expected. As it turns out in African time the 2 hour journey home too us nearly 5 hours ! Thankfully dinner was still available. Followed by team time where, yet again, I was forced at gun point and with much coercion to read out the previous day's blog. Good job I’d stayed up the night before to finish it. Glenda and Mary both pretended they’d had a really busy day too. It turns out they were watching the tennis ! They even managed without a techie they said which again made me believe they didn’t actually do anything, since techies do all the hard work. Yes the humility is still with me. No really though, they had been busy with various people turning up though out the day. So they were back at 6, which is of course still late.
Now, what about Anna. I have I think been really nice to her today. Is she left wondering if there is some snide comment or little secret I am going to share about her (apart from the fact she lives in Slough ! - I guess someone has to). Well Anna.. just for today (apart from the Slough comment of course) .. I’ll be nice. In fact I commented that it's quite nice that a physio tries to fix the chair as much as she can without asking a techie for help.
Anyway, as it turns out it's the penultimate day for us as Wednesday will be our last distribution day. Thursday it seems (so far at least) will be a pack-up day. My respect of course again to the OT’s and of course Anna the physio as they do the hard work I think and do a great job getting people into the wheelchairs.
Please pray that the final day of distributing chairs will go smoothly and that those we help will be blessed in ways we can’t imagine. Pray for those children we saw and that God will remind me (at least) about those things, the joy and happiness, that those children had despite having very little physical things in life. Remind me to be more like them every day in that respect.
Night all at the end of day 6.