Wednesday, 25 June 2008

My favourite bank (again.)

It's not been a great week. The big reason being yesterday's post, but add to that tropical tummy trouble, Gloria splitting her head open on the shower attachment* and the car breaking down outside the local brothel and you could say Kampala is losing its shine.

Whenever I'm down, though, there's nothing that lifts my spirits like a bit of Barclays bashing. Hello, corporate spies!

My brother recently sent me through some info about Katine, a sub-county of Soroti district, where The Guardian is sponsoring various health, education, watsan and livelihoods programmes. "It starts with a village", goes the lofty strapline. The Katine projects are run by AMREF (African Medical and Research Foundation), who, to give credit where it's due, seem like dudes. But it is all funded in partnership with...Barclays Bank! BB are matching them pound for pound in donations. Barclays who charge £5 on every withdrawal once your balance goes under £50 (£50 pcm being the average wage here in Ganda.) They should make their money back in no time by squeezing the very people The Graun wants to help! FYI, my local branch also scores pretty high in Basic Incompetence. I needed to withdraw a couple of million shillings the other day to pay for our holiday, and after a lot of waiting around and flustered tapping on the computer, I was informed sheepishly they had ran out of money. Well done!

I feel better already.

*Gloria is fine. She is a bit accident-prone. She will have a scar on her hairline, but only a tiny one.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Another tragedy

My friend Monica gave birth to a beautiful baby just before midnight on Tuesday. She sent round a joyful text giving the vital statistics: little girl, 3.75kg, 52cm long. The beep of my phone woke me up. I grunted happily to Rob and poked him with the news. A grunt from him, happy sounding. Then we went back to sleep.

At 7.30am the next morning I replied: "Congratulations! Well done! Girls rock!" Or something. At 8am, or thereabouts, I got another text from another friend. "Hello baby group. I have some very bad news. There were some complications and Monica's baby has died. Please don't send any more messages right now. See you all later this morning." I was numb with shock.

Lots of tears at baby group. We had all been so excited about this new arrival. It was Monica's first baby, and she had been hungry for all the intel about nappies, breastfeeding, sleep, birth, hospitals. We had loved dishing it out. We had spent a very enjoyable morning with a latte and a cinnamon roll, while I gave her my Katherine birth story. The past few days I have been racking my brains, trying to remember what I said. Had I given Monica a false impression of the risks involved?

On Saturday Monica and Dave invited our baby group to a reunion. It was enormously gracious of them given the magnitude of their loss, that they could acknowledge our grief and bewilderment. It turns out little Mazhira (it means 'light' in Hebrew) died of meconium asphyxiation. Dave showed photos, and we passed round a paper with her footprints on. She was a pretty little thing, and she had big feet. They are on their way to Australia as I write this, to bury her in a cemetary just walking distance from their house. I can't imagine the pain they must be in.

Monica and Dave both said they were comforted by the knowledge that others were sharing their grief with them. Please remember them in your prayers.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Yessir, that's my baby!

Baby Katherine is 10 weeks and 2 days old. She is chubbing up nicely, although I have no idea what she weighs. (Getting her weighed means a drive across town, on doddery, unreliable old scales. And by the third kid it's all a bit less urgent anyway.) She doesn't cry much. She loves milk. She doesn't seem to mind being manhandled by her big sisters. She is still sleeping through the night, 7 til 7, which I can't quite believe. (If it's any consolation, Gloria still wakes us up 2 or 3 times.) I love snuggling into her round belly and big cheeks. Rubbing her with baby oil after her bath is a gorgeously delicious treat. Ahhh. Makes me almost want to have another one....*

*no way. not really. sigh. well, maybe. actually: no. er..

Sunday, 8 June 2008


Ugandans don't say something 'is painful'; they say 'it is paining me'.

My start-up is paining me.

Following some very useful customer feedback, I have been trying to get East African fabric. Uganda has not yielded much so far, at least not of the right quality for children's clothes. You can, however, get lovely soft Kikoy fabric from Kenya. Baby K having no passport, I figured the best thing would be to get my contacts (hi Phyllis) to buy the stuff and post it. This has led to much paining.

My package got stuck in the post office. FYI, if MI6 need a new office, they could do worse than move to Kampala main post office. It makes rabbit warrens look like palaces of minimalism. Package located, they wouldn't release it until I had paid duty on it, which FYI was sixty percent of the value of the fabric inside. Coughing up the tax bill involved a morning of utterly needless standing around in the Crane bank. (It was Charles, a friend of mine, who did the standing around: I sat in the pouring rain in the car park opposite jiggling baby.)

I don't have a problem with taxes. But sixty per cent duty is eye-wateringly high, I'd say. How can anyone turn a profit with that kind of tax burden? If there were decent roads and shiny new schools springing up here and there I'd mind a lot less. So where is the money going? Answers on a postcard..

At least now I have these babies:

shorts, wrap skirts, towelling-lined bathrobes coming soon

PS Happy Birthday Mama xxxxxx

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Good, bad, whatever

There is no water coming out of my taps. There is no water coming out of anyone's taps. There is no mains water in Kampala today. BAD.

I have been to a fabulous hairdresser's! Despite the weakest of briefs, she gave me really rather a nice new barnet. GOOD.

It is raining torrentially, ironic given water shortage. Good for the garden but rubbish for the toddlers. BAD.

The torrential rain has started flowing down the Internet antenna on the roof onto the electrics. VERY BAD.

My nine week old baby now sleeps through the night. BRILLLLLIIANNNT!!!!!
Don't hate me.