Wednesday, 26 December 2007

The Gandabunny

Name: Fraser.
Sex: Unsure. They think I'm a boy.
Age: Unknown.
Likes: Cabbage. Carrots. Washing my paws. Hopping.
Dislikes: My new tiny owners who follow me round the place squealing. I find it a bit frightening.
Home: Currently a cardboard box full of shredded paper. But look where I go when they let me out!

Belated Happy Christmas, everyone.
Love Fraser x

Friday, 21 December 2007

Avos anyone?

We've moved into our house, and to quote my best friend EG, 'you can swing quite a number of cats in there.' The avocado tree is an excellent fruiter, and every morning the lawn is littered with about 30 of them, each the size of a newborn baby's head. I've been running out of creative ways of giving them away. I visited our former neighbours this morning (the shack dwellers over the chicken wire) with a huge bagful, and I think it was a good ice breaker. One guy said, in excellent English (noting that my Luganda extends to one phrase), "You are most welcome and thank you for the fruit!". I almost burst into tears - not sure why. I'll be back, I think.

I have been trying to upload a pic of the garden but the connection is working against me.. it is still a struggle to adjust from Switzerland, where Everything Works, All The Time, to Uganda, where Some Things Work, Some Of The Time. It would be especially nice if Some Things would work First Time JUST FOR ONCE.

So no garden photo, but here's a sweet one anyway:

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Thanks for the cyberlove, everyone! I am feeling much better, thank you, despite getting to the team house kitchen only to discover all the Extremely Chocolatey Biscuit Rounds had been eaten. (I should have known this kind of rare treat would disappear in seconds.) So when I spotted some Chocolate-Dipped Rich Shortbread, I got straight in there. It was naughty not to ask, first, but these were desperate times (and it made a magnificent substitute.)

Ugandaman is back! After a diet of posho - think of solidified, cold porridge - and beans, I prepared him a Welcome Home love basket of broccoli and other greens. It may be the only time in our marriage that I've brought tears to his eyes. Either that or it was the stench - we'd had no water for 2 days, so couldn't shower, flush the loo, anything. It's back on now, phew..

I've been meeting some great people and getting some good ideas about what to do with my time here now that a lot of the domestic drudge will be out of my hands, but I'll save that for another post. Happiness is restored at least, and even the Christmas tree is up. A hot Christmas just isn't the same, though. I had a mince pie this afternoon, but with the sweat pricking and the sun streaming in it just didn't feel right.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Going bananas

If you're not in the mood for reading self-pitying whingebaggery, please click away now.

I'm homesick. The initial excitement has worn off, and there's little I wouldn't give for a glass of chilled white wine and a chat with an old friend. Looking after the girls all day, much as I love them to pieces, can also make me cry with boredom sometimes. Just getting anywhere is totally exhausting. Take today's project, Project Swimming Pool. Once the gathering of swimsuits/waterwings/ plastic tea set had taken place, the screaming ones placated with biscuits, the car booked, the car seats installed, the log book filled out, I realised I'd run out of money to pay the entrance fee. After a kind person had been identified, money borrowed, biscuit eaters installed in car, perilous dirt tracks negotiated (including truck parked half way across), parking space identified (pool jam packed due to wedding reception), I realised I had forgotten to bring a towel. The pool in question is about 1.5 km away, but impossible to get to on foot, at least with small children. I'd had enough by this point - we all drip-dried and I probably flashed my bottom at some wedding guests. (no changing rooms, either.) Add to this the voice in my head murmuring well at least you have the luxury of swimming..did you see that kid with the gerry can and no shoes? There are days when it fuels my zeal to Do Something, and days when it stalls in knackered apathy.

I can't wait to meet some other mums. The team house is great, but relief work is mainly a singles (or childless) game. Everyone works during the week, so I spend quite a lot of time on my own policing Em and Glo and it's a bit isolated. For now. But at least this is a stage I recognise - the weird, slightly painful settling-in phase that you just have to go through before things improve. It was the same in Switzerland. Not having a husband around or our own home - our own home! We've not had one for 3 months and I'm gagging for one - doesn't help.

On the upside, someone just came back from the UK with some M&S Extremely Chocolately Biscuit Rounds. I think I shall go and eat one now, and suspect that afterwards I will feel much better.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Congestion charge

When I wrote earlier about the crazy driving, etc, I think I forgot to mention the traffic:

Despite the er, hold ups, I did actually make it to town this morning where I changed some money, bought 2 slightly rubbish quality car seats, topped up my new phone and drank an excellent latte. All of which made me feel sort of capable and productive.

Meanwhile, Gandaman is in Patongo (i.e. up North) staying in a hut in an IDP camp, where a stream of little boys constantly stare at him through the window. He comes back on Wednesday.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

The Muzungu's dilemma

Here is a picture of our temporary home. It's a stone, whitewashed annex in the Medair compound. It countains two pretty small rooms, enough for 2 single beds and a cupboard each but not much more. Our suitcases are cluttering up the corridor, which is more frustrating for the fact they are crammed with stuff I now know we don't need. Two jumpers? Two pairs of pre-pregnancy jeans? (As if!) On the other had we only bought one water bottle for a family of four - I blame the hormones.

Anyway, the girls share a room, Gloria in her cot with a bit of improvised netting stretched over. Emma has her very own mozzie dome, which she loves as it reminds her of camping holidays. Rob and I have pushed our single beds together, but our nets are not big enough to cover us both so we have one each. It's not great for romance. There is a toilet and a shower which are connected to the town water, so the supply is a bit erratic, as is the power, so a hot shower is something of a bonus. Drinking water we have to get from the main team house, where there is a fully-stocked kitchen, washing machine and living room, shared by the whole team. It's quite a cosy arrangement, but we're happy. It's been great getting to know the rest of the team, and Em and Glo have lots of new aunties and uncles. Indeed I'm only able to write this because Shelley and Ian, God bless 'em, have taken them swimming for the afternoon.

Although basic by our standards, our accommodation is nothing compared to the neighbours, the cockerel owners, who live behing the razor-wired fence to the right of the picture. The cockerels are the the only things they do actually own, apart from some plastic buckets and the odd cooking utensil. They live in a small cluster of very rickety wooden shacks without electricity or running water. There are lots of kids who run around naked or half-naked, and we hear them cry a lot. When they see us they shout "Muzungu!" (whitey), "How are you!" and "bye bye!" and wave. (We wave back and say "Fine, thank you.") It's a shocking situation, and so far, it's the thing I find hardest about being here. It can only get worse, as in 2 weeks we'll move into an embarressingly palatial house, plus guards, a gardener and a housekeeper. (The standard muzungu lifestyle, in other words.)

Of course there's a plus side to this: we'll be giving people jobs. I need to feel my kids are safe - and we heard some scary stories about near kidnappings from our new friends who tried a simpler lifestyle in the bush, so this is not paranoia. And I'm not going to deny that I don't like the idea of sitting on my own veranda, staring at an acre of garden and chortling at the thought of Tooting Broadway tube station in rush hour. You can have a very nice life here as an ex-pat - more on that later. And yet - we didn't come to Uganda for the lifestyle.

When I start blogging about the swimming pool and cocktails, you may need to remind me of that.

Thursday, 29 November 2007


It feels like my brain is overwhelmed with stuff to write about, but tiredness, wall-to-wall childcare and a slow internet connection is getting the better of me. Still, the fact I can blog under my mozzie net in the middle of Africa, when from Dorset we had to wander from house to house to get a decent connection - there's some irony there.

The tiredness. The cockerels. 4.30am they start, and it's not even remotely light, and won't be for another hour at least. (Perhaps global warming has interferred with their Circadian rhythms? Not that I'm in the mood for finding excuses for them. I spent hours having bloodthirsty, murderous fantasies about what I would do with the next cockerel to cross my path.) Anyway, it starts with one lusty, enthusiastic fella, and before you know it, the whole of Kampala's poultry join in the singsong. And they don't give up. They even drown out the imam when he starts at 5.30 - needless to say I thought some very un-PC things about him too - and carry on until 7 when they get a bit hoarse. Then it's time to get up. Emma clambered into my bed at 4.30 having also been woken by our feathered friends, at which point she started reciting random numbers like Rain Man. At 6 or so she launched into a detailed description of what kind of cake she'd like for her next birthday. (Pink and purple, ballerina and smarties on top, 4 candles.) You can imagine the atmosphere at the breakfast table.

Things are looking up for tomorrow. I've got hold of a babysitter to look after the kids every morning for a week, so I get a chance to do something else, like get a phone/ find a bank etc, and generally scrape the tip of a very large admin iceberg. The girls continue to amaze me with how well they're doing in their new home: they have settled in better than either of us so far, but it'll all come in time.

I might try and take some photos tomorrow too. Dinner time.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

You are most welcome to Uganda!

We're here!
We're OK!
And there was no delivery on the plane, although long haul flights with small kids is a bit like childbirth, only a different kind of agony.

First impressions. No idea where to start, though I can report that I am most definitely culture shocked. Here are some things I have taken for granted up til now:
1. Pavements. Not just interesting road decoration, but a useful safety feature.
2. Roads without potholes. Pavements and roads without potholes are essential for McLaren buggy operators.
3. Rules of the road.
4. People who obey the rules of the road most of the time.

As you can imagine, walking around has been rather hairaising. I thought for one brief, idealistic moment that we'd try and manage without a car, but ha, ha! I think I'll take that 4x4 after all sir, with air conditioning and extra security features.

On a happy note, it really is stunningly beautiful here, and Emma and Glory have taken to life here like crocs to Lake Victoria. "Hello Uganda!" said Emma, as the plane landed. They've met lots of other kids, and already abused their toys. Business as usual for them, and a huge relief for me.

Bed time now. More to follow.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

The countdown begins

We're leaving on Sunday. This Sunday. No more rain and drizzle for me; just wall-to-wall sunshine and an avocado tree in the garden. So why am I waking up in the night panicking about the availability of nappy liners? It has suddenly dawned on me that this is not a game. Here are those worries in full:

1. How will Emma and Gloria cope with the night flight?
Answer: we will fill them with a tank full of milk and they will sleep.
2. How will I cope with a night flight, given my big belly and proclivity to not sleep well anyway?
Answer: you will not sleep at all, but get over it, there'll be a film to watch.
3. Will I give birth on the plane?
Answer: NO.
4. How will I have a baby in Uganda?
Answer: the same way you had the other two, only at home (probably.)
5. Will my kids get malaria?
Answer: Not if you stick to Kampala and hose them with DEET, just in case.
6. Will I get malaria?
7. Will any of us get an unpleasant tropical disease?
Answer: Maybe. Deal with the possibility.
8. Will there be broadband?
Answer: please, Lord, please.
9. What if Em and Glo hate it and want to come home?
10. How will I cope with the lack of conditioner?
Answer: go frizzy. The only way.

And there you have it. I think I can cope with all of the above apart from number 9.

Friday, 9 November 2007

The lady returns

Woo-wee! Welcome to my new home. For any newcomers, here is a quick summary of the last three years:
- lived in Switzerland.
- bore child: 1 female infant, Gloria Rosemarie (also known as Glorymouse), a sister to Emma Angela (also known as the Golden-Haired Snow Elf, or these days Emsie Bundle)
-kissed, cuddled and played with 2 girl children in picturesque mountain land.
-kissed and cuddled husband, Uganda Man (formerly known as Switzergent)
- pregnant again
- Sept 07 returned to UK for a brief reunion with family and friends, which takes us to today, exactly 17 days away from moving to Kampala, our African home for the next two years. It's been an exciting if rather stressful time: getting injections, going to the dentist, seeing the midwife, pleading with the accountant, sulking with the Halifax, shopping for (among other things) suitcases, head torches and insect repellant, waking up in a cold sweat wondering if the girls will get malaria or if they'll survive without CBeebies.

More later: it's dinner time..
PS This is us leaving Switzerland. We got everything we own in this car (minus 3 boxes) and wobbled our way across France. We arrived unscathed. Impressed? I am!