Tuesday, 28 April 2009


We are leaving Uganda on July 17th.

There it is, the big news. We have known about this for sometime, but for various reasons have had to keep it quiet on cyberspace. We are departing a bit sooner than planned, and though we have got used to the idea of leaving, we are a bit heavy-hearted at the same time.

So why the early exit? Well, here is the good reason. There is peace now in Northern Uganda, after 18 years of civil war. After years of living in displacement camps, people are beginning to return to their villages and become self-sufficient again. Medair - who for years provided emergency humanitarian assistance in the Northern states - are shrinking their programmes accordingly, so that the private investors and development people can take over. This is entirely a good thing - if the emergency NGO's outstay their usefulness, they create problems (e.g. dependency culture), rather than solve them.

This, plus the less good reason (global financial crisis), means that there is a lot less money in the pot. One of the toughest periods for R at work was making Ugandan staff redundant - 5 people in Kampala, 30 in the field. It was a time of serious soul-searching for us too. We realised that our family (R's salary, our house etc) is expensive to the programme. So Rob basically sacked himself. There is a lovely, extremely competent single man who is taking over - and he will rough it in the team house like everyone else. (We did suggest moving into the team house, but they said no! Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned Gloria's 5.30 waking habit.)

Yet through all the uncertainty, we've seen God's incredible faithfulness. Most of the staff have got new jobs. We don't have anything lined up work-wise yet, but we feel at peace about this. We're considering going overseas again, some further study for R...I might even go back to nursing (arggh! arggh!)

But we're not in the departure lounge just yet. There is still plenty to do, like handover Sweetshop to the right people (details to follow in another post), find my wedding ring, and of course, catch the rat. Would it be creepy to then stuff him and take him back to England?

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Lost: wedding ring

I know it's just stuff and you can't take it with you, but losing a wedding ring is quite a big deal. A bigger deal than say, losing a contact lens. The contact lens is probably more inconvenient, but easier on the heart strings.

It's been over a week now, so it has jumped categories from 'mislaid' to 'AWOL', although it won't be 'gone forever' until we get on a plane and leave Uganda. But while there is that glimmer of hope that it might still be under the sofa, I am still a little sad and feel somewhat under dressed without my special bit of bling.

It was always a question of "when" and not "if" I would lose it, however. I think I have lost every piece of jewellery that I have ever been given. A gold chain from my Dad when I was about 11; a ring from my best friend on my 21st birthday. I am a bit clumsy and forgetful (and not naturally tidy), but I don't do it deliberately, either. I have sort of accepted now that I am not a jewellery girl, and have made R swear never to buy me any no matter how special the occasion.

It was white gold, plain and very small. (I am not petite by any means, but my fingers are.) I remember choosing it in R's old school friend's swanky jewellery shop, trying on lots of different styles and feeling very excited about getting married. Hours into the marriage, my brand new ring made the skin underneath red and itchy, and so my habit of taking it off a lot was born. For the next 6 years I wore it most of the time, except when I came into contact with water whereupon it was consigned to strategically-placed shelves, i.e high ones, out of reach of little fingers.

Very early last Wednesday morning, I saw my ring on the bathroom shelf next to the toothpaste. I am pretty sure I put it on. Then there was breakfast and the usual morning mayhem. I got Emma's school bag ready and waited outside our gate for her lift to school. I put her in the car and kissed her goodbye. It's around this point I don't remember having the ring anymore, though I have no memory of taking it off. Since then I have searched high and low and - nothing.

The one thing that makes this whole thing a bit easier is that R lost his wedding ring a couple of years ago. He thinks he stuffed it with a napkin into a paper cup in Starbucks at Heathrow Airport. So we are one all.

I will definitely get another one (if it really is Gone Forever), as I am sick of men throwing themselves at me in the street under the illusion that I am available. Except this time, it'll be made of stainless steel.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Ugandan dudes

Meet Dan, our ex-guard and his family. That's baby Angela on Mummy's knee, who is a few months older than Katherine.

Being a security guard is a rubbish job in Uganda. The shifts are long, the pay is dismal and it is very, very boring. The big security companies treat their staff appallingly, not relieving them on time and generally being very unsupportive. All too often we watched Dan stay on, well after his 12 hour stint was up, while we made increasingly irate calls to the company - let's call them Group Five - demanding they relieve him. As a result of our phonecalls (in which we frequently threatened to cancel the contract) Dan came to us one day, obviously distressed, saying that the management at Group 5 had started intimidating him for being a troublemaker. He desperately wanted another job.

On his days off, I used to give Dan driving lessons. He was in possession of a driving licence, but his examiner must have been either drunk, blind or of a thrill-seeking disposition. But after a few door-clutching spins, Dan got to be a very good driver, and very adept at the hated school run. And he could do inch-perfect right hand turns. I said I would keep my ear to the ground in case any driving jobs came up - a step up in pay and a welcome break from seven years opening gates (which is basically what guards do all day.)

It wasn't long before Dan came to us, very excited, saying he had been offered a security management job which involved driving - and that he'd passed their basic assessment. The job was also in Mbale, Western Uganda, where Dan is originally, so the location couldn't be better. Hooray! So here we all are, having our farewell afternoon tea. We will miss Dan - a really good guy.
(And for the record: Ugandan men never smile in photos. So take his Mona Lisa curl to be an expression of extreme joy.)