Monday, 24 November 2008

Aussie dude

Last Sunday was the day of the MTN marathon here in Kampala. I wasn't running this year. I wanted to, but with three tiny nippers and Gandaman away, the logisitics were against me. Plenty of my friends were running, so I took Emma and Glory to watch. Getting to the 7am start was a struggle, but it was worth the sight of thousands of runners take off in their yellow singlets, like a sea of bananas. The crowd were more bemused than enthusiastic, perhaps because jogging has yet to seriously catch on. (When I ran a 5km a few months back, a spectator called out "get a boda!*") I tried to make up for the general coyness with some good shouting and clapping and leaping up-and-down.

It was not like the runs I used to do in Switzerland. Neither the organisers nor the participants appeared to take it completely seriously. The portly stragglers at the back who still hadn't crossed the start-line at 0740; the chap on his bicycle; the relaxed attitude to traffic and crowd control. Then there were the very committed: some runners in slippers, others in bare feet. The muzungus in all the gear, with ipods on their arms. The crowd gasped as they saw a man in his 70s set off for the 21km, and gasped again when he finished in just over 2 hours. The winner of the marathon itself (42km) did it in a staggering 2 hours 17 minutes - Kenyan guy.

Our baby group team, Mums on the Run, all completed the 10km in very respectable times. Well done again, Ros, Kirsteen and Jo! Ruth did a very fast 21km, barely breaking a sweat. But the biggest shout goes out to Monica, who did the 21km a mere 5 months after giving birth. Each one of us felt the lump in our throat as she approached the finish line, and we clapped and cheered ourselves sore.

Here she is about 3/4 of the way round with her pal Dionne and small fry. Watch out behind you!

PS. I meant to post this on Monday, but have had annoying internet problems all week.

*motorbike taxi

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Grumpy trousers

It has been a couple of weeks now since the start of the 'blog more' rule and already I am beginning to flag. What can I tell you? Let's think.

Firstly I have a horrible cold which is making me grumpy and ratty. But it is not as bad as Baby K's, whose nose is a permanent dripping tap, so much so that the skin on her upper lip is red and sore. She doesn't have a temperature, but she looks so sorry and sad I want to take her to the doctor. They would almost certainly not give her anything (apart from concerned eyebrows), but it might make me feel better. My poor baby. Did you know she can crawl and has 2 teeth?

Also the microwave is broken. Of all household appliances this is the one I love the most, and now this infidelity. We eat nothing but re-heated rice* pretty much. How do you re-heat rice without a microwave?

*with bits added

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The mosquito hunter

Gandaman is the mosquito's public enemy number one. He squishes them here, he smacks them there, he splats them here, there and everywhere. In the middle of the night he'll turn the light on, and stalk round the bed, carefully frisking every inch of mosquito net to flush them out. The ones that escape, in return, bite every inch of his bare flesh.

This all works to my advantage. He is the tastier of the two of us, and given a choice, Mr and Mrs Moz always go for the no-extra-cost gourmet menu, i.e him. But he is not here, and Brian and Shirley need to eat, and the chewy old gristle (i.e. me) will have to do.

This is unacceptable. He gets back in eight days.

PS. Back to the deep-fried grasshoppers. I think it's the deep-fried that's the clincher. Isn't everything nicer deep-fried?

Monday, 17 November 2008


..Gandaman went to the North for 9 days to visit the Medair programmes. Lonely Gandalady. Gandalady feeling sorry for herself. However: now I get to indulge in some experimental cookery and read for as long as I like in bed.

..We vaccinated 65 children at baby clinic. My favourite name today was a little boy called "Godlives".

..I ate my first deep-fried grasshopper. It was delicious, similar to roast chicken flavour crisps, give or take a disquieting stringiness. "Hmm," said Emma as she tucked in (Glory was too suspicious). "They are nice and yucky."

Friday, 14 November 2008

The Donut Lady

This is Jennifer. She is The Donut Lady. She sells delicious, squidgy, melting, icing-sugar dusted donuts. So today I brought her with me to school. Parents are invited to assembly on Friday mornings, and coffee is served, but otherwise their hands are sad and empty. Sad, empty hands yearning for delicious, squidgy, melting icing-sugar dusted donuts.

"Ambrosoli, I know it!" she clapped, when I told her where we were going. "I used to work there." As we got to the school gates she said "There I was bitten by a snake!" She showed me a large scar on her leg, just above the ankle. "It was a cobra." I told her she was lucky to be around to tell the tale. Then, hmmm, cobras on school property. Maybe I should tell the head.

Jennifer is only 48 but already a grandmother. She sells donuts to pay for school fees, etc. She has four children, all boys. The youngest one's name is George Bush.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Welcome to my inner life

I've recently finished The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. As a result I've spent many of my idle moments arguing with him in my head. (RD, I mean, not God.) Gandahusband often catches my lips moving and hands gesturing into thin air, mid 'debate.' He thinks perhaps I have lost my marbles. Perhaps I have? So to lay it to rest, I've decided to commit some of my God Delusion-related responses to blog, probably in several parts* because there is quite a lot of it. The sub-headings that follow aren't quotes: they are just how I've summarised RD's arguments, albeit a bit crudely. I am not as clever as him.

1. There is no God. Scientific evidence tells us so.

I admit, when RD talks about science, he has the upper hand. I am not a scientist, and in the science part of the book (the first few chapters) some - not all - of his arguments are quite convincing. He is right when he talks about biological natural selection and the overwhelming evidence for it. (I'm a theistic evolutionist, by the way, but open to persuasion.) But he also takes his Darwinism very literally and extrapolates it to areas where the scientific evidence is at best weak or questionable. He admits it. In cosmology, as opposed to one big bang, he talks of the 'tantalisingly Darwinian' theory of an explosion of 'multiverses', resulting in mutated 'daughter' universes which are constantly adapting to survive the physics. Or to explain why religion has survived so long, he talks about 'memes': beliefs that are replicated (like genes) through the generations. As I mentioned earlier, he admits the evidence isn't there yet, but the 'tantalisingly Darwinian' comment strongly suggests he wants it to be true. Something you believe to be true without all the facts is a faith position. (RD hates faith.)

2. Scientific evidence is the only kind of evidence that counts.'Evidence' from scripture is only hearsay.

Forensic evidence is not the only admissable evidence in a court of law. There is also witness evidence. The New Testament is witness evidence. Consider this example. Caesar's account of the Gallic War was written 950 years after the actual event, and there are 9-10 existing copies. Scholars don't dispute the historical authenticity of this text. The first extracts of the New Testament appear 30-310 years after the events they describe, and there are 5,000 surviving original Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin and 9,300 others. The life, miracles, and resurrection of Jesus are recounted by the Jewish historian Josephus. Tacitus and Suetonius (Roman historians) also mention him. Even RD concedes he probably existed -but still this kind of evidence doesn't really count. God doesn't exist because we can't see him through the Hubble telescope, stick him under a microscope, grow him in a petri dish, or come up guarenteed in a double-blind randomised control trial. (Incidentally, 90% of the God RD is attacking in the book is the Christian God. Odd position for someone working on the presumption that all religions are the same. Why not share out the vitriol?)

To be continued. You are probably bored by now and I have children to look after.

*I will have have froth-and-bubble posts in between, don't worry

Monday, 10 November 2008

Back in the saddle

I've spent the morning helping out at Hope Clinic. Monday morning is baby clinic: hence immunisations, weighing, cooing over loads of little bundles and the usual tedious paperwork.

It won't be a permanent gig - I'm just holiday cover for Florence the nurse. But it feels nice to be back after a career break of almost 5 years.

After a nervous start I was injection-happy like I'd never been away. Good recovery for a girl who smashed a glass of water and tipped Emma's fried egg down the side of the cooker, both within half and hour of waking up this morning. Butterfingers!

PS In case you're wondering, I am not extracting the poor kid's tooth. I am giving polio drops, yum!

Thursday, 6 November 2008


I think I am coming out of my post-friend induced homesickness. It has been helped greatly by Marie's stated intention to come to Uganda again (here it is, M, a gentle reminder) and the reappearance in Kampala of Little Warthog after her long holiday.

In celebration of her return, Her Wartiness rejected my offer of a jog, and suggested Pilates instead. I agreed, thinking 'it is good to try new things.' That is how I found myself in one of Kampala's smarter cafes last Tuesday, full of enthusiasm and dressed appropriately.

The instructor introduced herself with "Sorry! I am French!". No need to apologise. Then she added, startlingly, "I also 'ave very bad language!". I think what she meant was ' my English is not very good'. (Her English was excellent.)

As it turns out, Pilates is sado-masochistic, humiliating agony. It is also quite similar to ante-natal class: women manipulating plastic balls on mats on the floor, practising loud exhalation. ("SSSSSHHHHHHH.") I couldn't find it in my heart to hate Paschale, the nice instructor, who is obviously an ex-dancer or gymnast and can't help being flexible, but I had federal reserves of un-Christian loathing for my fellow exercisers, especially the ones 10 years older and 10kgs heavier than me who still managed to put their head on their knees.

At least we had a nice latte afterwards, with complementary homemade biscuit, and that in itself is reason to go again.

(Now excuse me while I get into my Radox bath.)

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Ugandan dudes: David K

It's not all doom and gloom here in Ganda. There is quite an art scene going on. We went to a private view the other day: sure enough, the credit-crunch denying mist descended upon us, and we decided to buy some original Ugandan art.
Here is the artist we bought from, David Kigozi, with one of our pictures. We think it's gorgeous and worth every penny. He kindly agreed to be interviewed for this blog.
Hello David. Please tell us about yourself.
I am 32 years old. I have a long-term girlfriend. No kids yet. I rear my kids on canvas!
How is it being an artist in Uganda? Can you make a living from it?
More or less. It is 4 years since my last exhibition, although I have had commissions from the Government of Rwanda. I was also involved in making the CHOGM* monument. Otherwise I have been investing in land.
Who buys your work?
Mainly bazungu. Most Ugandans don't see the value in a canvas painting. They think it's just a piece of cloth! But this perception is changing the more people are able to travel.
Were your family supportive of your decision to become an artist?
I was brought up by my mother who was a single parent, the sixth of seven children. She rented out our house to pay for our education. Yes, she supported me. Three of us ended up going into art. My sister is one of my greatest influences.

What would you do if you weren't an artist?
I'd be an architect or an engineer.

What do you think it would take for Uganda to progress?
If it was truly democratic.

* CHOGM stands for Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. It was held in Kampala a year ago, and the Queen came to visit. It was a HUGE deal here, and people still talk about it.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Political glasses on today

Hooray for Barack!

I didn't watch any of it live sadly, so I stayed glued to Sky News as I queued in Barclays (nemesis bank) for once getting irritated when eventually it was my turn at the teller's. For the 5 mins or so I watched, there was non-stop gush about how wonderful he is. I think he is pretty wonderful too. But it struck me as odd that the gush was almost exclusively along the lines of "I can't believe at last there is a black man in the white house!"

Yes it is significant, for historical and cultural reasons. But the fact he is black (or handsome or slim) doesn't mean he will be a better president for it, any more than being white made George Bush a rubbish president. (He wasn't all rubbish, either; he did some very good things for Africa I think.) Yes he is black. Well-spotted, everyone. But what about the fact he might also be wiser, have a better grasp of world events, more visionary, generally a better candidate for the big job?

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Some excuses and an announcement!

Oh gosh, ummm, yet another very delayed post. I have all manner of excuses, and here they are:
1. I have had a visitor! Marie is a very dear old friend and the sister of Rebecca. We were all at school together, once upon a time. Marie and I have spent days (or weeks? I'm not sure) talking non-stop, late into the night...actually I am hoarse. And tired, in a good way. She left yesterday and I am missing her dreadfully. I can already feel a wave of homesickness coming and the sudden silence is weird. I have some wonderful ex-pat friends, but there is something also wonderful about a friend who knows your history and laughs at your bizarre, dry, untranslatably English jokes.

2. Our electricity got cut off. No red bills or stern phone calls here, just a man with some wire cutters who came - while I was out - and disconnected us, padlocked the mains box and slapped on a note saying "remove this padlock and you will face prison". Or something. We are reconnected now (there was wrangling over the bill, it's a long story); in contrast to the clean efficiency of Mr Wire Cutter, Mr Wire Connector took his sweet, sweet time.

3. I get a bit rattled when anyone says they like what I write. I don't know why this is. It is a bit like stage fright. Ms Mac (hello!) gave me a lovely plug the other day, and while it makes me blush with pride, I also get into a bit of a tizz about how 'the next thing I write will be terrible' and so I don't. Marie gave me some excellent advice on this, that blogging is a bit like practising scales, just do it, it is good for you and it doesn't always have to be perfect. So I will try and blog more.

4. The announcement. Remember the business idea? I have been tinkering away and guess what, we now have website! In case you don't feel like clicking on loads of links, the synopsis is this: I am paying Ugandan ladies to make beautiful clothes for kids which I then sell to you, dear reader. All the profits go to the tailors. You get a lovely item with a handwritten note, and they get a much needed boost to their income. It's like giving to charity with bells on. I must add here that there is NO WAY this idea would have seen the light of day without the help of my friends Clare Benians, Lexi Smith and Simon the tech genius. They get all the credit: THANK YOU.

We are also selling these star wall-hangings (there must be a nippier description than that!)
in Christmas colours. They are really beautiful and selling like hot cakes over here. £5 to you, plus £1 p&p.