Sunday, 27 April 2008

Business update...

Remember the business idea? Well even though I've been slacking of late , it is very much still on.

We have sold our first item, to belgianwaffle no less. After some nail-biting weeks of thinking that our parcel had not arrived, and that we would be cobbling together complaints procedures depressingly early in our operational life, it turns out that the dress arrived, well on time and that the small customer in question is very satisfied, if a bit chilly. Eva and I got very, very excited when we heard such feedback. A month or so ago we sent some stock back to the UK and we'll see how that does too.

I had a bit of a dip in enthusiasm after scouring Kampala's textile shops and finding very little in the way of nice, quality fabrics. (Unless teflon-coated lime and black tiger stripes is your thing, and more power to you if so, you would like it here.) I went in search of some Ugandan-woven stuff, at a place called the Textiles Development Agency, but all the weavers had been laid off as there was not enough work. More on this another time. Just as I had written Kampala off and was preparing to go to Nairobi to get some decent material, I took special K into town (her first visit) and came across a new shop with some pretty stuff in it. So we are back in business. Expect more photos soon.

(Nor can I write this without giving a big shout to my friend and now business partner Clarey B. Thanks to her we have a logo, a brand name and a website in the pipeline, and without her time, committment and general enthusiasm, this whole thing would surely have hit the buffers.)

PS this green spotty number is one of ours. Send me a note if you want one.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

The future's bright, the future'

As mentioned in a previous post, the Scho's have now finished their breeding bonanza.* Three children is just dandy, now the shop is shut. While a little boy would have been very exciting and rather novel, baby K is such a cutie it's already hard to imagine the world without her.

As far as oestrogen-heavy families goes, it seems we're not alone. Just in Ganda, our friends L&F have 3 girls, B&D 4 girls (and 1 boy), E&L 2 girls, S&F 2 girls, I&J 2 girls 1 boy. Back home the record stands at C&M's 5 girls (and 1 on the way, sex unknown), but the pattern continues.

Where are all the men children? Is there something in the water?

*still, it's dangerous to make pronouncements like this. As my friend Dan puts it, "the stork is always listening."

Friday, 11 April 2008

In which the terrible reality of life in Africa hits home

OK. This post is not going to be blogging-lite. If you want blogging-lite, click away now. Normal service (rabbits, Katherine etc) will be resumed soon, but you can't live here and meet Ugandans without at some point brushing against the desperate misery that so many of them face. As I said: not blogging-lite today.

Remember the neighbours? From time to time I have visited them. I bring bits of food and homemade playdough for the gangs of kids which seems to go down a storm, especially as not many of them speak English. A while back we exchanged mobile numbers. (An aside: no-one does landlines here. You guys are so backward in this regard.) They have always welcomed me into their home. Sometimes we've prayed or read the Bible together. No-one has a job or much in the way of schooling. No-one has ever asked me for money either. A surprise -and very humbling.

When K was born, Pastor Rashid asked if they could come and visit. So last Wednesday, a little troupe of 4 adults and 2 children, all looking immaculately smart turned up at our gate. We sat on the balcony, drank sodas and ate chocolate brownies while they cooed over the new baby. They gave me a gift: a Pepsi Cola T shirt and a cook book from the 80s entitled "Fresh ways with soups and stews." I re-iterate - none of these people has a job or anything like a regular income. Baby Israel, who I saw being born, was looking very healthy and huge for a 3-month-old. Baby Simon, 7 months old, was climbing all over his mother and seemed fine. When I asked how he was, I was told "he is diarating." (Ugandan English, and a neater way of saying, "he has diarrhoea.") I didn't probe: he really looked fine. Just the week before I'd gone to the doctor with one of our guards and his baby daughter, worried that she was "diarating", only to be told that up to 10 loose stools a day is normal for a breast-fed baby. (Shows how long I've been out of the nursing game. But it was reassuring to be told, anyway.)

The next evening, quite late, I got a phonecall at home in the middle of a leaving party for a Medair colleague. It was one of the neighbours, telling me that Simon had died. I was stunned.
At first I panicked. Just the day before we had all been sitting around my week-old baby. Could she have caught something life-threatening? By the morning I was more rational. We went over to see Simon's mother in their tiny shack. Simon was there, under a blanket on the floor. He looked beautiful and peaceful. His mother was distraught. "My heart is hurting," she said. This lady is an orphan herself. We all cried. They buried him that day, in a town about 60km away.

Rob bumped into Pastor Rashid later that week. Apparently, they had taken Simon to a local clinic. The doctor there assumed he had malaria and injected him with quinine. Very soon they noticed that he was having a bad reaction to the drug, so they got in a taxi to Nsambya hospital, but by the time they got there it was too late.

Did he have malaria? He might have done. Diarrhoea is one of many possible symptoms. Many places can't afford expensive microscopy, and even if they could, the clinical conditions aren't great for effective diagnosis. Blind treatment is the only option for many people, and malaria is a killer. But quinine is also a nasty drug; it has horrible side effects and (I have a good source for this) should never be given by injection. More likely, he just had diarrhoea and would have got through with clean water and a couple of oral rehydration sachets. We'll never know.

His memorial service is tomorrow, under the tree by the shack where they live.